The Bioenergy Technologies Office supports four post-doctoral researchers at various national labs. They are an important part of the Office's portfolio of applied research and development activities happening all across the nation, and our post-docs reflect our strong commitment to strengthen the bioenergy industry and create green jobs. We've profiled the Bioenergy Technologies Office post-docs right here over the past two days, so be sure to check out the posts from earlier this week to meet David Lampert and Padmaja Gunda and learn more about their research. But today, let's meet Sarah Hobdey to close out our Post-Doc Profile Series.

Head shot of Sarah Hobdey



Name:Sarah Hobdey

Affiliation: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Area of Study: Enzymology




Bioenergy Technologies  Office Blog (BETO-B): Tell us about your research.

Sarah Hobdey: My research involves the purification and characterization of various cellulases and hemicellulases involved in lignocellulosic oligomer saccharification. My goal is to increase total saccharification levels by enzymatic hydrolysis of high biomass loadings. I am also piloting experiments involved with conversion of biomass into longer chain hydrocarbons and investigating alternative organisms for consolidated bioprocessing.

BETO-B: How did you get started in the field of renewable energy? What initially interested you in biomass research, specifically? 

SH: I completed my doctorate work in biochemistry, studying the function of viral proteins, specifically the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. After graduation, I wanted to utilize my enzymology expertise in a new, non-health-related field. I chose renewable energy because I believe that currently, it is the most exciting area of research.

BETO-B: What are the next steps for your research moving forward? What would you like to achieve in the near term? 

SH: In the near term, I will be investigating possible enzyme inhibitors that are generated during saccharification with multi-enzyme cocktails.

BETO-B: What impact do you think your research could have? What do you hope it will achieve? 

SH: My research will increase the efficiency and lower the cost of converting waste materials, i.e. biomass, into utilizable sugars or carbon sources for energy production.

BETO-B: What do you see as your ‘endgame’ or ultimate long-term goal?

SH: Turing waste into energy!

BETO-B: In your opinion, what event in the last decade has contributed the most to widespread adoption of renewable energy, particularly biofuels? What do you see as the main reasons to continue to expand the bioenergy industry?

SH: I believe that the increasing cost of oil has raised public awareness of our limited resources, resulting in the widespread adoption of renewable energy. The reason to continue bioenergy research is that we have yet to harness the massive amounts of potential energy that exist in biomass.

BETO-B: What do you see as the next great development in bioenergy?

SH: Next-generation biofuels are likely to include development of longer chain hydrocarbons from waste biomass, such as corn stover, that can be used as drop-in replacements in today’s fuel systems.

BETO-B: Tell us a few fun facts about yourself, aside from your studies. 

SH: In my “free time” I like to climb, tango, play soccer, and go camping. I have a dog named Tino and a cat named Cat.

Thanks, Sarah! To learn more about Sarah's research, check out her publications, below.

Sarah Hobdey's Publications

Hobdey, S.E.; Kempf, B.J.; Steil, B.P.; Barton, D.J.; Peersen, O.B. (2010) "Poliovirus polymerase residue 5 plays a critical role in elongation complex stability," J. Virology. Aug;84(16):8072–84.

Issur, M.; Geiss, B.J.; Bougie, I.; Picard-Jean, F.; Despins, S.; Mayette, J.; Hobdey, S.E.; Bisaillon, M. (2009) "The flavivirus NS5 protein is a true RNA guanylyltransferase that catalyzes a two-step reaction to from the RNA cap structure," RNA. Dec;15(12):2340–50.

McBryant, S.J., Klonoski J., Sorensen T.C., Norskog, S.S., Williams, S., Resch, M.G., Toombs III, J.A., Hobdey, S.E., Hansen, J.C. (2009) “Determinants of histone H4 N-terminal domain function during nucleosomal array oligomerization,” J. Biol. Chem. June:284(25): 16716-22.