Ben W. Thuronyi

Photo of Ben W. Thuronyi

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Science Center South Building Rm 128
At Williams since 2019

Lab: Science Center South Building Rm 101, x2204


B.A. Swarthmore College (2007)
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, Chemistry (2015)

Areas of Expertise

All living things contain incredibly sophisticated biotechnology, built from chemical parts that evolved over millions of years to make organisms grow and reproduce more efficiently. Researchers are starting to take advantage of that evolved technology like never before, reprogramming cells and creating new biomolecular functions in an interdisciplinary field called synthetic biology. Synthetic biologists have created cells that produce chemicals, biomaterials, and therapeutics, carry out computation, and even direct evolution toward researcher goals. In the Thuronyi lab, we are building synthetic biology tools for a promising but underdeveloped bacterium, Vibrio natriegens, that is among the fastest growing known organisms. We are establishing new methods for directed evolution of biomolecules in V. natriegens that can effectively harness its entire genomic and metabolic repertoire. Our first directed evolution target is improving production of the bioplastic polyhydroxyalkanoate, which V. natriegens naturally makes in small quantities. Synthetic biology draws on skills across disciplines and relies on the design-build-test-learn cycle of engineering. Many of our experiments involve creating DNA constructs using computer-aided design, assembling and inserting them into bacteria with molecular biology techniques, and investigating the results with analytical chemistry methods (luminescence and fluorescence, HPLC, GC/MS or NMR).