EBI Personnel Directory Somerville, Chris

Feedstock DevelopmentBiomass DepolymerizationManagement

Chris Somerville




As Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute, Dr. Somerville oversees all aspects of the  Institute. He also chairs the Institute's Executive Committee and reports to the Governance Board.

Dr. Somerville is the Philomathia Professor of Alternative Energy and a member of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the characterization of proteins implicated in plant cell-wall synthesis and modification. He has published more than 200 scientific papers in plant and microbial genetics, genomics, biochemistry and biotechnology. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Society of Canada.



Lignocellulose Synthesis and Depolymerization

Mechanisms used by plants to modify the properties of cell walls during various aspects of growth and development may also provide insights into possible ways of reducing cell wall recalcitrance to enzymatic hydrolysis during bioconversion of plant biomass to fuels. Several studies suggest that there is a link between the cell expansion that occurs during plant growth and cell wall digestibility. This program identifies and studies plant proteins that contribute to cell wall loosening during cell expansion and to determine their impact on cell wall digestibility.


Agave as a Feedstock Crop in the Southwestern U.S.

Agave spp. have recently been introduced as potential bioenergy crops that can be grown in semi-arid regions without competing with agricultural lands used for food crops. This project investigates the potential for Agave spp. to be grown for bioenergy in the semi-arid southwestern U.S.