Fueling Sustainability: Engineering Microbial Systems for Biofuel Production

A computer-generated model showing a cellulase enzyme breaking down cellulose.

Enzymes known as cellulases break down the cellulose from plant cell walls into smaller sugar molecules. The sugars released from this process can be fermented into biofuels like ethanol. (Image courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2011



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Course Description

The need to identify sustainable forms of energy as an alternative to our dependence on depleting worldwide oil reserves is one of the grand challenges of our time. The energy from the sun converted into plant biomass is the most promising renewable resource available to humanity. This seminar will examine each of the critical steps along the pathway towards the conversion of plant biomass into ethanol.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.

Michelle O'Malley. 7.347 Fueling Sustainability: Engineering Microbial Systems for Biofuel Production, Spring 2011. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), http://ocw.mit.edu (Accessed). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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