Stephanie Stockwell, Ph.D.
Co-Director for the School of Integrated Sciences
Academic Unit Head and Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Technology
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
Approximately 300 million tons of plastic waste is produced worldwide every year, while only ~7-9 percent is recycled. The result is harmful plastic waste accumulation that negatively impacts ecosystems and communities around the world. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the most abundant plastics due to its transparency and chemical strength. While naturally occurring PET-degrading bacterial enzymes have been identified (i.e., PETase and MHETase), their physiological requirements make them ill-suited for industrial use. This shortcoming may be addressed through bioengineering.
In this seminar, we will explore how a team of undergraduate students was inspired to action by the plastic waste crisis and United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #12: Responsible Production and Consumption. This tale of molecular biology, biomanufacturing, sustainability and STS (Science, Technology, and Society) will highlight how a problem-centric approach to undergraduate research can support transformational change, authentic interdisciplinarity and deep student engagement.