Azra beach

Education

Work experience

Current research

Publications

Presentations

Scholarships

Invention

 

Azra Vajzovic

... is a Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, School of Forest Resources, focusing on bioethanol and xylitol production by naturally occurring yeast in Populus trees. Just three months after she started PhD Program, her work became novelty that soon led to a process of filing for record of invention. Recently, the invention was determined as appropriate for UW TechTransfer to pursue patent application and formally accepted as a patent application in October 2008. Azra obtained a B.S. in Biochemistry in August, 2008 from the University of Washington. She is an IGERT fellow, the National Science Foundation's flagship interdisciplinary training program, focused on developing renewable energy solutions for Northwest Native American Tribes. Currently, she is a part of the Bioenergy Department at the University of Washington, working on small-scale fermentation processes using renewable resources to not only produce fuels, but also a variety of bioproducts which can further offset our use of fossil fuels. The availability of ethanol and biodiesel at the fuel pump is becoming more prevalent. Rising fuel prices, environmental concerns, pressures for oil independence and federal energy policy are creating a strong market for renewable energy. Bioenergy is renewable energy derived from biological sources, to be used for heat, electricity, or vehicle fuel. Biofuel derived from plant materials is among the most rapidly growing renewable energy technologies.

Education: BS, Biochemistry, University of Washington, 2002.

Current Research:

Major: Bioresource Science
Advisor: Renata Bura
Title of PhD research: Biological Production of Ethanol and Xylitol by Novel, Naturally Occuring Yeast
The objective of this research project is to develop an innovative process that produces fuel-grade ethanol and high value co-products, xylitol and glycols, from agricultural or forest biomass. The feed for the co-products manufacturing will be the fraction of biomass that is not well suited for (or specifically inhibits) fermentation to ethanol. Xylitol is a very high value co-product that significantly improves overall process economics. Glycols are normally produced from natural gas and/or naphtha distillate. Their production from biomass will reduce dependence on fossil raw material sources for these industrial chemicals. The biorefinery concept to be developed will provide clear benefits related to energy conservation by producing process energy from biomass, by fossil fuel replacement, and will reduce fossil fuel carbon emissions while delivering economic, environmental, and social benefits.
For economically feasible and efficient biochemical production processes, complete and fast consumption of all sugars naturally present in lignocellulosic feedstocks is required. One of the main challenges emerging from the use of lignocellulosics for the production of ethanol by the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is efficient fermentation of D-xylose and L-arabinose, as these sugars cannot be used by natural S. cerevisiae strains. A novel, naturally occurring yeast was identified as being capable of rapid assimilation and catabolism of five and six carbon sugars (arabinose, xylose, galactose, glucose and mannose). This yeast (PTD3) was shown not to be subject to hexose-mediated repression during mixed sugars fermentation. PTD3 metabolizes six carbon sugars to ethanol and five carbon sugar xylose to xylitol with high theoretical yields. PTD3 has also a high tolerance of inhibitors (furfural, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and acetic acid) during biological production of ethanol and xylitol. PTD3 can effectively ferment five and six carbon sugars present in hydrolysates from different cellulosic biomass (steam pretreated switchgrass, hybrid poplar, and sugar cane bagasse) to ethanol and xylitol.

Publications:
  1. Doty SL, James C. A, Moore A. L, Vajzovic A., Khan Z, Xin G., Kang J.W, Strauss S. H, and. Strand S.E (2007) Enhanced phytoremediation of volatile environmental pollutants with transgenic trees.

  2. Doty S.L, Oakley B, Xin G,Kang, Singleton, J.W, Khan Z, Vajzovic A, Staley J.T (2009) Diazotrophic endophytes of native black cottonwood and willow. Symbiosis Vol 47:23-33.

  3. Schmitt E, Bura R, Gustafson R, Cooper J, Vajzovic A (2012) Converting lignocellulosic solid waste into ethanol for the State of Washington: An investigation of treatment technologies and environmental impacts. Bioresour Technol 104:400-409.

  4. Bura R, Vajzovic A, Doty L. S. (2012) Novel endophytic yeast Rhodotorula mucilaginosa strain PTD3 I: production of xylitol and ethanol. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol Vol 7: 1003-1011.

  5. Vajzovic A, Bura R, Doty S (2012) Novel endophytic yeast Rhodotorula mucilaginosa strain PTD3 II: production of xylitol and ethanol in the presence of inhibitors J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol (in press).
Presentations:
  1. Doty, S. L, Vajzovic A, Strand, S. E. Metabolism of halogenated hydrocarbons by plant cells. International Workshop on Nanochemistry. September, 2004  Mátraháza, Hungary. 
  2. Doty, S. L, Moore, A. L, Vajzovic, A,  Meilan, R, Gordon, M. P,  Bruce, N. C,  Strand, S. E, Enhanced metabolism of two classes of environmental pollutants by transgenic aspen, Minisymposium 12: Heavy Metals and Phytoremediation. American Society of Plant Biologists, July, 2005, Seattle, Washington.      
  3. Vajzovic A. and Bura R.  Xylitol production by Rhodotorula mucilaginosa. Xi Sigma Pi Alpha University of Washington Research Grant Award for 2009. May 2009, Seattle, Washington.
  4. Vajzovic A. and Bura R. A sweet solution to fuel troubles. Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation annual conference. May, 2009, Seattle, Washington.
  5. Vajzovic A, Bura R, Doty S.L, Kohlmeier K. A sweet solution to fuel troubles. The Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, May, 2009, San Francisco, California.
  6. Vajzovic Azra. Biological Production of Ethanol, Xylitol, and Arabitol by a Novel Yeast. Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy, November, 2009 Honolulu, Hawaii.
  7. Vajzovic A. Bura R, Doty S.L, Kohlmeier K. Increased tolerance of inhibitors during biological production of ethanol and xylitol by a novel yeast. Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation annual conference. May, 2010, Seattle, Washington.
  8. Vajzovic A, Bura R, Doty S.L. Biological production of ethanol and xylitol by novel naturally occuring yeast. International Conference on Renewable Resources & Biorefineries , June, 2010 Dusseldorf, Germany.
  9. Vajzovic A, Bura R, Doty S.L. Novel approach of improving xylose to xylitol conversion by Candida guilliermondii. The Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, May, 2011, Seattle, Washington.
  10. Vajzovic A. and Bura R. Enhanced production of xylitol by Candida guilliermondii. Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation annual conference. May, 2011, Seattle, Washington.
  11. Vajzovic A. and Bura R. Novel approach of improving xylose to xylitol conversion by Candida guilliermondii. International Conference on Renewable Resources & Biorefineries , June, 2011 Bruges, Belgium.
  12. Bura, R and Vajzovic, A. Biological production of xylitol and ethanol by novel naturally occurring yeast. IGERT PI Meeting, June 2012, Washington, DC.

Scholarships/fellowships:

  1. Xi Sigma Pi Alpha University of Washington Research Grant Award for 2009
  2. Bioenergy IGERT fellowship 2009-2011, the National Science Foundation's flagship interdisciplinary training program, focused on developing renewable energy solutions for Northwest Native American Tribes
  3. Denman Professorship in Bioresource Science Engineering, University of Washington

Invention:

  1. UW TechTransfer accepted our Record of Invention (ROI) and formally accepted it as a patent application in October 2008. ROI Title: Naturally occuring yeast strains for xylitol production, UW TechTransfer Reference No. 8107D.