Ben Woolston


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Ben is a former PhD student, now Post Doc in the Stephanopoulos lab. He is originally from the UK, but has been living in the US since 2001. He went to Penn State for his undergraduate, where he graduated from the Honors College with a major in Chemical Engineering, and minors in Chemistry and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. While at Penn State, Ben conducted undergraduate research on a DARPA-funded project to engineer mushrooms for heterologous protein production for vaccine applications, wining the AIChE National Student Paper Competition in 2010. At MIT, Ben has been heavily involved with the MIT Cycling Team, acting as President in 2015-2016, and the MIT Triathlon Team, as VP the same year. He is also a Fellow of the MIT Chemical Engineering Communication Lab. In this capacity, he works with students and post-docs across the department to aid them in improving their scientific communication. Outside the lab, Ben enjoys competitive cycling, triathlon, and tennis, as well as a new-found interest in gardening.

Ben’s primary research interest focuses on alternative non-sugar feedstocks for the production of biofuels and biochemicals, specifically C1 compounds methanol and synthesis gas (CO). In support of this, his secondary interest is the development of novel non-genetic approaches to facilitate the rapid identification of bottlenecks in engineered pathways.

His primary project in his PhD was to improve the synthetic biology tools available for the acetogen Clostridium ljungdahlii in the context of producing 3-hydroxybutyric acid (3HB) from synthesis gas. Here, he developed and characterized a CRISRPi approach for modulating gene expression in C. ljungdahlii, and using this to downregulate competing pathway genes improved both the titer and yield of 3HB.

His secondary project focused on engineering E. coli, the workhorse of the metabolic engineering field, to consume methanol as a substrate. Using a systematic combination of kinetic-thermodynamic modeling, chemical inhibitors, deuterium kinetic isotope effects, and 13C metabolite profiling, he identified the key bottlenecks in methanol assimilation and devised effective strategies to overcome them and improve the rate of methanol incorporation into central carbon metabolism.

Email: woolston (at) mit (dot) edu



Woolston BM, Roth T, Kohale I, Liu DR, and Stephanopoulos G. 2017. Development of a Formaldehyde Biosensor with Application to Synthetic Methylotrophy. Biotechnol. Bioeng.. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/bit.26455

Woolston BM, King JR, Reiter M, Van Hove B, Stephanopoulos G. Improving formaldehyde consumption drives methanol assimilation in engineered E. coli. In review.

Woolston BM, Emerson DF, Currie DH, and Stephanopoulos G. CRISPRi-mediated Production of 3-Hydroxybutyrate in Clostridium ljungdahlii. In review.

King JR, Woolston BM, Stephanopoulos G. 2017. Designing a new entry point into isoprenoid metabolism by exploiting fructose-6-phosphate aldolase side-reactivity of Escherichia coli. ACS Synth. Biol.: acssynbio.7b00072.

Emerson D, Ghatta A Al, Woolston BM, Fay A, Ave M, Stephanopoulos G. 2017. Theoretical Analysis of Natural Gas Recovery from Marginal Wells with a Deep Well Reactor 0.

Hu P, Chakraborty S, Kumar A, Woolston BM, Liu H, Emerson D, Stephanopoulos G. 2016. Integrated Bioprocess for Conversion of Gaseous Substrates to Liquids. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 113:3773–3778.

Eric Nybo S, Khan N, Woolston BM, Curtis WR. 2015. Metabolic engineering in chemolithoautotrophic hosts for the production of fuels and chemicals. Metab. Eng.

Woolston BM, Edgar S, Stephanopoulos G. 2013. Metabolic Engineering: Past and Future. Annu. Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng.:259–288.

CP Romaine, CD Schlagnhaufer, BM Woolston. Strategies for the transgenic manipulation of filamentous fungi. US Patent 8,686,218

Woolston BM, Schlagnhaufer C, Wilkinson J, Larsen J, Shi Z, Mayer KM, Walters DS, Curtis WR, Romaine CP. 2011. Long-Distance Translocation of Protein during Morphogenesis of the Fruiting Body in the Filamentous Fungus, Agaricus bisporus. Ed. Gustavo Henrique Goldman. PLoS One 6:e28412.