Peter Kim

Postdoctoral Appointee

Portrait of Peter Kim

Peter Kim’s current research goal is to develop a fabricated soil ecosystem (EcoFAB) for studying plant, soil, and microbiome interactions in a laboratory setting. Soil is one of the most complex ecosystems in nature and conducting the reproducible studies has been very challenging. Kim is developing an artificially reduced, yet relevantly complex ecosystem in a fabricated device that is also easily accessible to various analytical techniques such as advanced imaging, metagenomics, and metabolomics. 


Bachelor’s Degree: Chemistry, University of California-Berkeley (2002-2006)

Doctoral Degree: Biophysics, University of California-Davis (2007-2013)

Postdoctoral Fellowships

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California-Davis (2013-2014)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Sandia National Laboratory (2014-2018)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, mCAFES Project, Sandia National Laboratory (2018- Present)

Kim earned a Ph.D. in Biophysics with a background in optical spectroscopic techniques and microfluidics. At UC Davis, Kim studied the initial photoreaction of the photoreceptor phytochrome and cyanobacteriochrome. He used time-resolved ultrafast spectroscopy and global analysis to resolve the intermediates and deduce the isomerization reaction pathways. At Sandia National Laboratories, he developed an automated microfluidic system for de novo DNA synthesis cycles. Utilizing single-molecule fluorescent microscopy and novel biochemistry on-a-chip, this device can potentially achieve the synthesis of a gene-sized oligonucleotide and significantly reduce the cost.

Research Interests

  • Soil EcoFAB A recent major focus has been the use of microorganisms to produce biofuels, commodity chemicals and specialty chemicals. Long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) and medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) are good targets for the biochemical industry as they supply platform chemicals that can be later derived to a library of final products by chemical catalysis. The focus of Fernandez-Moya’s work has been the metabolic engineering of S. cerevisiae for the synthesis of free fatty acids of defined length. He and his team constructed a yeast strain devoid of its native fatty acid metabolism and expressing the heterologous type II fatty acid synthase (FAS) system from Escherichia coli and a MCFA-specific thioesterase. This FAS system increased total fatty acids and shifted the fatty acid profile, increasing the percentage of C14 fatty acids from less than 1% to 33%.
  • Mycorrhizal EcoFAB Even though arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form symbiotic associations with nearly 80% of terrestrial plants, research on AM fungi is limited due to the challenging nature of these systems. New methods that facilitate the handling of AM fungi are essential to enhance and enable the research on these beneficial organisms. This “Mycorrhizal” EcoFAB design consists of a plant growth chamber and compartments for nutrient sources that are separated by a mesh sheet; this set-up effectively prohibits roots from accessing the nutrients if not associated with AM fungi. Using such a design will enable us to measure and image direct impact of AM fungi on nutrient access and plant growth.

Selected Publications

  • Sebastian Palluk, Daniel H. Arlow, Tristan de Rond, Sebastian Barthel, Justine S. Kang, Rathin Bector, Hratch M. Baghdassarian, Alisa N. Truong, Peter W. Kim, Anup K. Singh, Nathan J. Hillson and Jay D. Keasling. De novo DNA synthesis using polymerase-nucleotide conjugates. Nature Biotechnology, 36 (7), 645-650 (2018).
  • Philip C. Gash, Kosuke Iwai, Peter W. Kim, Nathan J. Hillson, Anup K. Singh. Droplet Microfluidics for Synthetic Biology. Lab on a Chip, 17 (20), 3388-3400 (2017).
  • Steve C. C. Shih, Garima Goyal, Peter W. Kim, Nicolas Koutsoubelis, Jay D. Keasling, Paul D. Adams, Nathan J. Hillson, Anup K. Singh. A Versatile Microfluidic Device for Automating Synthetic Biology. ACS Synthetic Biology, 4 (10), 1151−1164 (2015).