Dr Cristiana Dal'Molin

Lecturer

School of Chemical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Affiliate Research Fellow

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
c.gomesdeoliveira@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 63185

Overview

Dr. Cristiana G.O Dal’Molin is a Brazilian Bioengineer, Lecturer and Coordinator of the Chemical and Biological Engineering Program of the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland. She is also project leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Dr. Dal'Molin is internationally and nationally recognised for her pioneer contributions to the areas of genome-scale reconstruction and metabolic modelling of plants and algae. Dr. Dal’Molin is the developer and creator of open source metabolic models (AraGEM, C4GEM and AlgaGEM) used by industry and scientific community to investigate metabolism of crops and algae.

Her expertises are metabolic engineering, genome-scale metabolic reconstruction, multi-tissue modelling, fluxomics, pathway analysis of complex organisms and poor characterized microbiome. Dr. Dal'Molin research integrates high-throughput data sets generated by modern omics technologies with metabolic network reconstructions to study the complexity of biological systems.

Research Interests

  • Green Chemistry: Renewable feedstocks for the production of chemicals and biopolymers
    "One of the main challenges facing the chemical industry is the transition to sustainable operations. Industries are taking initiatives to reduce resource intensities or footprints, and by adopting safer materials and processes. Such efforts need to be supported by techniques that can quantify the broad economic and environmental implications of industrial operations, retrofi t options and provide new design alternatives". With that in mind, we seek to apply innovation and technology for the rational use of biomass for chemical feedstosk.
  • Redirecting Carbon Flow to increase production of Poly-3-Hydroxybutyrate in Sugarcane (metabolic engneering in planta)
    http://www.aibn.uq.edu.au/redirecting-carbon-flow-217905 This work is significant in that it will provide an increased understanding of C4 plant biochemistry and metabolism which in-turn will allow the manipulation of the biochemical pathways of major bioenergy crops to produce valued-added industrial chemicals and materials.
  • Whole plant fluxomics: Multi-tissue genome-scale framework to study C /N translocation and resource allocation eficiency
    http://www.aibn.uq.edu.au/cssb-plantgem Understanding the dependencies and rationale for multicellular metabolism is far from trivial. We combine the use of a muti-tissue framework (developed in house) and experimental data to explore differences in the “division-of-labor” between the sources and sink tissues in response to different factors. This tool enalble assessing the impact of energetic constraints in resource allocation between leaf, stem, and root tissues required for efficient carbon and nitrogen assimilation over the diurnal period.
  • Reconstruction and omics analysis of the Setaria viridis (green millet) - a model for C4 photosynthesis
    C4 photosynthesis drives productivity in several major food crops and bioenergy grasses, including corn, sugarcane, sorghum and switchgrass. Gains in productivity associated with C4 photosynthesis include improved water and nitrogen use efficiencies. Thus understanding C4 metabolism is important for the improvement of industrial crops. Here we use a combination of technologies to explore C4 metabolism of this C4 model plant. By using omics and genome-scale reconstruction approaches we are accessing the metabolic capabilities in different tissues of the plant.
  • Ecogenomics: characterization and metabolic network analysis of microbial ecology
    Our understanding of complex microbial communities, coined “microbiomes”, and the processes they generate, are often limited by barriers imposed by classic microbiological methods. Recently however, the exponential breakthroughs in genomics and bioinformatics, and their application in microbial ecology (termed ecogenomics), has enabled us to address these fields in a manner that was not possible in the past. In collaboration with Professor Phil Hugenholtz / Australian Centre for Ecogenomics (http://ecogenomic.org/), we are unlocking the metabolism of poor characterized microbes using genome scale metabolic reconstruction and omics technologies.
  • Biologics
    Discovery and development of pharmaceuticals via a sustainable bioprocess design - Process development and validation - Design of Experiment studies - Development of protocols - Scale-up and tech transfer Parthership: Professor Stephen Mahler ( http://www.aibn.uq.edu.au/stephen-mahler) and Patheon Biologics (www.patheon.com)
  • Systems biology studies for pest control and sustainable crop protection systems
    In this project, we are interested to address the problems about pest control and crop protection. The agricultural sector faces systematic annual losses due to pests and diseases. Herbivorous insect pests are responsible for destroying one fifth of the world’s total crop production. In some countries, the total annual economic losses reach approximately US$ 17.7 billion. All species of plants, are subjected to pests and diseases. However, some microorganisms and plants elaborate a long-term interaction to their mutual advantage and a well-known example is the symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and leguminous plants. In a nutrient-rich soil, some microbial consortium can stimulate growth, making plants less susceptible to diseases or even exhibit a healing effect (illness antagonists) in plants attacked by pathogenic agents (like fungi, bacteria, virus and nematodes). Research interest: i) In order to protect plants against typical diseases we are interested to study bacteria isolated and microbio communities that colonize crop roots in order to find beneficial microbial-plant interaction that would promote plant health and growth. ii) We are also interested in finding more sustainable solutions to protect the crops against pests. By combining multi-omics technologies we want to find alternative transgenic strategy that has the potential to generate broader and more sustainable levels of resistance against insect pests. For example, finding targets or metabolic traits to produce a natural protein toxic to the pest, reducing the need for broad-based sprays that can kill beneficial arthropod predators. To address these problems we combine different approaches for systems biology studies like fermentation, analytical, plant cultivation, omics and metabolic network analyses. This project will be conducted in collaboration with Peer Schenk’s Lab (http://www.schenklab.com/research-groups/plant-microbe-interaction/).
  • Systems biology of microalgae - a platform for the production of industrial specialties,chemical building blocks, nutraceuticals and biomass
    The rise in global population has led to explorations of alternative sources of energy and food. Microalgae are a renewable source for animal feed, fuel and nutritional supplements. Microalgae cultivation can be carried out on non-arable land without competing for food production and in nearly any type of water (fresh, brackish or saline water). Although its potential for many industrial applications, we still don't understand algal cell metabolism. Therefore, the use of a combination of technologies are required to access the metabolic capabilities of microalgae to be used as "green factories". Omics technologies integrated into metabolic reconstruction, modelling and pathway analysis can help us to estimate these capabilities. A key part of the project is to develop and use genome scale metabolic reconstruction to integrate omics, pathway and flux analysis. This way, we generate an experimental and in silico platform for microalgae systems biology studies. With the implementation of this platform, it will be possible to rapidly test in silico hypotheses, for instance: (i) potential targets for strain improvement, (ii) optimum media for cell growth or (iii) optimum condition for the production of the bioproduct of interest. In collaboration with Prof. Peer Shenk (http://www.schenklab.com/) we are developing a technology platform to explore the potential of Australian microalgae strains for producing chemical building blocks, industrial specialties, nutraceuticals and biomass in its sustainable value chain.
  • Metabolic engineering for the production of nutraceuticals from microalgae
    Omega-3 long-chain (≥C20) polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3 LC-PUFA) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are critical for human health and development. Omega-3 oil from algae is nutritionally identical to fish oil, containing both DHA and EPA, but it is not an animal product, its production conserves fish resources and it can replace fish oil as an omega-3 supplement. Here we have the interest to optimize microalgae as cell facories to produce fish oil-like of DHA and EPA. This project will be conducted in collaboration with Prof. Peer Shenk (http://www.schenklab.com/).

Research Impacts

Dr. Dal'Molin is internationally and nationally recognised for her pioneer contributions to the area of genome-scale metabolic reconstruction and modelling of plants and algae. Dr. Dal'Molin has made seminal contributions in the field, including:

  • the first comprehensive genome-scale metabolic reconstrution for Arabidopsis (AraGEM);
  • multi-tissue genome-scale modeling of C4 plants like sugarcane, corn and sorghum (C4GEM);
  • metabolic reconstruction of microalgae based on Chlamydomonas (AlgaGEM);
  • and more recently, a multi-tissue genome-scale model framework to perform whole plant fluxomics (Multi-GEM). To download the models click here.

These tools have attracted great interest from academia and biotech industries. Since 2007, Dr. Dal'Molin has served as expert advisor and consultant to industries and scientific community interested on the development of metabolic reconstructions and applications of these tools in systems biotechnology research.

Collaboration experience and industrial partners:

Dow Agroscience;

Metabolix Inc.(USA);

BUNGE agribusiness

Patheon Biologics

Peer Review Journal contribution:

Dr. Dal'Molin is Review Editor of Frontiers in Plant Science

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Santa Catarina
  • Master of Chemical Engineering, Santa Catarina
  • Bachelor of Chemical Engineering, Blumenau

Publications

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Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Dal'Molin, Cristiana G. O. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2016). Algae genome-scale reconstruction, modelling and applications. In Michael A. Borowitzka, John Beardall and John A. Raven (Ed.), The Physiology of Microalgae (pp. 591-598) Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-24945-2_22

  • Dal'Molin, Cristiana G. O., Quek, Lake-Ee, Palfreyman, Robin W. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2014). Plant genome-scale modeling and implementation. In Plant metabolic flux analysis: methods and protocols (pp. 317-332) New York, NY, United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-688-7_19

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision