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Steven James Burgess

Profile picture for Steven James Burgess

Contact Information

505 S. Goodwin
Urbana IL 61801

Assistant Professor

Research Description

Sustainable ecosystems using synthetic biology tools to simplify, miniaturize and automate engineering of photosynthetic organisms

Our research aims to provide a sustainable ecosystem for future generations, by working openly and collaboratively with synthetic biology tools to simplify, miniaturize and automate engineering of photosynthetic organisms.

Currently, we are focused on developing a mechanistic understanding of (1) adaption of photosynthesis to environmental stress and fluctuations (2) how protein structure influences the activity of genes involved in photosynthesis.

This will allow us to take engineering approaches to introduce improvements in crop performance, as photosynthesis is one of the few remaining traits that breeders have not optimized. To do this we take an interdisciplinary approach, collaborating with researchers on campus to leverage advances in synthetic biology, machine learning, protein engineering, gene editing, genomics and automation to assess the performance of enzyme variants and gene function on photosynthetic performance before translating these findings into crops for field experiments on campus.

The major focus of our lab at the moment is to (1) Develop the smallest know photosynthetic eukaryote, Ostreoccocus tauri, as a model to studying phototrophs, and as a chassis for testing computational predictions of metabolic models and alternate carbon fixation pathways. (2) Developing platforms for directed evolution of photosynthesis enzymes.


B.Sc. (Hons), 2007, University of Edinburgh, UK
Ph.D., 2011, Imperial College London, UK
Post-doc, 2011-2017, University of Cambridge, UK
Research Fellow, 2018-2021, Institute for Genomic Biology

Additional Campus Affiliations

Assistant Professor, Plant Biology

Recent Publications

De Souza, A. P., Burgess, S. J., Doran, L., Manukyan, L., Hansen, J., Maryn, N., Leonelli, L., Niyogi, K. K., & Long, S. P. (2023). Response to Comments on “Soybean photosynthesis and crop yield is improved by accelerating recovery from photoprotection”. Science, 379(6634), Article eadf2189.

Patron, N. J., & Burgess, S. J. (2023). Editorial Overview:Engineering plants and plant products for a green bioeconomy. Current opinion in plant biology, 71, Article 102346.

Reyna-Llorens, I., Ferro-Costa, M., & Burgess, S. J. (2023). Plant protoplasts in the age of synthetic biology. Journal of experimental botany, 74(13), 3821-3832. Article erad172.

Sarabipour, S., Niemi, N. M., Burgess, S. J., Smith, C. T., Bisson Filho, A. W., Ibrahim, A., & Clark, K. (2023). The faculty-to-faculty mentorship experience: A survey on challenges and recommendations for improvements. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 290(2013), Article 20230983.

Sparrow-Muñoz, I., Chen, T. C., & Burgess, S. J. (2023). Recent developments in the engineering of Rubisco activase for enhanced crop yield. Biochemical Society transactions, 51(2), 627-637.

View all publications on Illinois Experts