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Alekhya G

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley)


environmental microbiology; biotechnology; genetics; biology


Hello! My name is Alekhya and I'm a PhD student at UC Berkeley! I'm fascinated by microbial physiology and its applications towards biotechnology. Specifically, I'm curious how microbes thrive in challenging environments (anywhere from deep sea hydrothermal vents to acid mine drainages to our own intestines!) and how they adapt and evolve their physiologies in order to do so. Not only do I find it exciting to study novel ways in which microbes exist in our environment, but there's a lot we can learn (and exploit) from a deeper understanding of their growth -- including engineering microbes to produce biofuels, bioplastics, bulk chemicals, and more! Outside of research, I enjoy reading, listening to music and podcasts, hanging out with friends, tending to a growing houseplant collection, and exploring the Bay Area!

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Microbes vs Fossil Fuels: Are bacteria the new bioplastic solution?

Our society's dependency on non-renewable fossil fuels contributes to the ongoing global warming crisis, and researchers are actively working towards renewable, carbon-neutral solutions to supply our need for energy, fuel, plastics, chemicals, and more. One promising alternative is microbial biotechnology: identifying bacteria that naturally produce bioenergy products and engineering them to efficiently produce these products at industrial scales. Successful examples of microbial biotechnology have already been demonstrated, such as engineering E. coli to produce bulk proteins, using fungi to produce antibiotics, using microalgae to produce biofuels, and more! In this project, students will identify bacteria that naturally produce polyhydroxybutyrate, a robust bioplastic. They will perform a bioinformatic search for bacterial genomes that contain the genes necessary for its synthesis, consider how genetically-tractable (i.e., how easy it is to genetically engineer them?) these bacteria are based on previous research in the literature, and provide examples of renewable substrates that can serve as bacterial feedstocks. The conclusion of this project will be the identification of novel microbial platforms for bioplastic production -- and perhaps, the first step towards a more renewable, carbon-neutral future!

Teaching experience

While I was a Research Technician in a molecular neuroscience lab, I mentored two undergraduate students through a summer research program. I also served as a Graduate Student Instructor (TA) for an introductory biology lecture at UC Berkeley, where I led discussion sections for ~100 students out of about 600 total students in the class.


Work experience

Columbia University/ NY State Psychiatric Institute (2018 - 2020)
Research Technician


Indiana University - Bloomington
BS Bachelor of Science (2018)
Microbiology; Biotechnology
University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate

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