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WVSU Energy and Environmental Science Institute

The mission of the West Virginia State University Energy and Environmental Science Institute (WVSUEESI) is to conduct basic and applied interdisciplinary research in energy and environmental science to generate technology and knowledge.
The WVSU Energy Institute was developed to help address major energy and environmental issues of interest and concern to West Virginians and society in general, such as:
  • Feedstock improvement, biofuels and bioproducts
  • Anaerobic digestion and microbial genomics
  • Bioremediation, environment and sustainability
  • Education, outreach and training

Education and Outreach
  • Bachelor of business administration in energy management and environment.
  • Research and Teaching Graduate Assistantships in the MS Biotechnology program. 
  • The Research Rookies Program in energy-related research. 
  • The Center for the Advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CASTEM) conducts STEM-related training.

  • University Research Council
  • Promoting Excellence in Education through Research (PEER)
  • American Electric Power Full STEAM Ahead Program
  • WV Higher Education Policy Commission Research Trust Fund (HEPC)
  • Gus R. Douglass Land-Grant Institute
  • West Virginia Regional Technology Park

  • West Virginia University (WVU)
  • Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center (MATRIC)
  • Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), Michigan State University
  • Center for Applied Plant Science (CAPS), Ohio State University 

Dr. Sanju A. Sanjaya, Ph.D. 

Department of Biology and AERS, West Virginia State University
101 Hamblin Hall, Institute, WV 25112
Phone: (304) 204-4062; Fax: (304) 204-4326; Email:
Dr. Sanju A. Sanjayas lab is leading an active research program to design photosynthetic organisms with enhanced bioenergy and industrial compounds for higher production, profitability and sustainability. Dr. Sanjaya’s research group uses bioinformatics, biochemical, molecular and cell biology and genetic engineering approaches to understand the primary metabolism mechanisms in plants and microalgae. Dr. Sanjaya’s lab also aims to advance the use of photosynthetic organisms to address water quality issues and phytoremediation.
Recent publications

Yang, Y., Munz, J., Cass, C., Sanjaya, Sedbrook, J., Ohlrogge, J. & Benning, C. (2015) Ectopic expression of WRI1 affects fatty acid homeostasis in Brachypodium distachyon vegetative tissues.Plant Physiology, Vol. 169, pp. 1836–1847.

Sanjaya, Rachel Miller, Timothy P. Durrett, Dylan K. Kosma, Bagyalakshmi Muthan, Abraham J.K. Koo, Gavin E. Reid, Gregg A. Howe, John Ohlrogge, and Christoph Benning (2013). Altered Lipid Compositio and Enhanced Nutritional Value of Arabidopsis Leaves Following Introduction of an Algal Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase 2. The Plant Cell, Vol. 25: 677–693.
VielerA., Wu, G., Tsai, C.-H., …… Sanjaya, ….. Benning, C. (2012). Genome, functional gene annotation, and nuclear transformation of the heterokont oleaginous alga Nannochloropsis oceanica CCMP1779. PLoS Gen., 8 (11): e1003064.
Sanjaya, Timothy P. Durrett, Sean E. Weise and Christoph Benning. (2011). Increasing the energy density of vegetative tissues by diverting carbon from starch to oil biosynthesis in transgenic Arabidopsis. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 8: 874-883.
Chia-Wen Li, Ruey-Chih Su, Chiu-Ping Cheng, Sanjaya, Su-Juan You, Tsai-Hung Hsieh, To-Chun Chao,and Ming-Tsair Chan. (2011). Tomato RAV transcription factor is a pivotal modulator involved in the AP2/EREBP-mediated defense pathway. Plant Physiology. May Vol. 156, pp. 213–227.
Sanjaya, Paoyuan Hsiao, Ruey-Chih Su, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva and Ming-Tsair Chan. (2008). Overexpression of Arabidopsis Tryptophan Synthase Beta 1 (AtTSB1) Improves Cadmium Tolerance and Nutritional Quality in Tomato. Plant Cell and Environment, Vol. 31, issue 8, 1074-1082.
Christoph Benning, Sanjaya and Rechil Miller (2014). Method to Increase Calorific Content and Enhanced Nutritional Value of Plant Biomass for the Production of Fuel and Feed. US patent application serial number 61/928,559 filed on January 17th, 2014.
Christoph Benning, Sanjaya and Changchen Xu (2013). Production of Oil in Vegetative Tissues, PCT international application number 14/046,504 filed on October 04th 2013.
Christoph Benning and Sanjaya (2013). Genetically Engineered Plants with Increased Vegetative Oil Content 2013PCT international application number 13/938,784 filed on July 10th 2013.
Sanjaya et al., (2010). Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation of Rutabaga (Brassica varnapobrassica) MSU TEC2010-0012. 

Dr. David Huber, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Biology and AERS, West Virginia State University
Department of Biology, 101 Hamblin Hall, P.O. Box 1000, Institute, WV 25112-1000
Phone: (304) 766-5127; Email:
The Huber Laboratory focuses on how microbial biodiversity controls essential ecosystem processes in both engineered and natural environments. In this regard, we are bioengineering microbial communities associated with anaerobic digestion in order to enhance bioenergy production from plant and waste biomass.  We are also interested in the microbial ecology associated with the restoration of soil biogeochemical processes at surface mine sites, the breakdown of lignocellulose in insect guts, and the turnover of nutrients in freshwater environments.  
Recent Publications

Smith, A.M., Sharma, D., Lappin-Scott, H., Burton, S., Huber, D.H. 2014. Microbial community structure of a pilot-scale thermophilic anaerobic digester treating poultry litter.  Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 98(5):2321-2334. (doi 10.1007/s00253-013-5144-y).

Sharma, D., Espinosa-Solares, T., Huber, DH.  2013. Thermophilic anaerobic co-digestion of poultry litter and thin stillage. Bioresource Technology. 136:251-256.

Shade, A., Peter, H., Allison, SD, Baho, DL, Berga, M., Burgmann H., Huber DH, Langenheder, S., Lennon, JT, Martiny JBH, Matulich KL, Schmidt TM, and Handelsman J.  2012. Fundamentals of microbial community resistance and resilience.  Frontiers in Microbiology 3:417. (doi:10.3389/fmicb.2012.00417).


Dr. Amir Hass, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, AERS and Department of Biology, West Virginia State University
100 Toney House, Institute, WV 25112
Phone: (304) 720-1025; Fax: (304) 204-4326; Email:

Dr. Hass research program is aimed at understanding natural processes in the environment, and at developing efficient beneficial and environmentally sound use of natural resources. Dr. Hass lab also asses beneficial agronomic and environmentally sound of use selected waste-streams. Current projects include: evaluating the use of horizontal directional drilling mud from oil and gas midstream industry operations (i.e. gathering/transmission lines); development of bioenergy farms as post mine land use; evaluation and product development of co-product biochar from pyrolysis of biomass to bio-oil industry; recovery of phosphorus as struvite mineral from organic waste-stream and evaluation of struvite as P fertilizer.
Recent publications
Hass A., J.M. Gonzalez, I.M. Lima, H.W. Godwin, J.J. Halvorson, and D.G. Boyer. 2012. Chicken Manure Biochar as Liming and Nutrient Source for acid Appalachian Soil. Journal of Environmental Quality, 41: 1096-1106
Ritchey K.D., L.D. Norton, A. Hass, J. M. Gonzalez, and J.D. Snuffer. 2012. Effects of selected soil conditioners on soil erosion, runoff, and rye growth. Soil and Water Conservation, 67(4): 264-274
Hass A., and W.R. Zobel. 2011.  Using soil E horizon in salvaged topsoil material - effect on soil texture. Soil Use and Management, 27(4): 470–479
Hass A., R.H. Loeppert, M.G. Messina, and T.D. Rogers. 2011. Determination of phosphate in selective extractions for soil iron oxides by the molybdenum blue method in an automated continuance flow injection system. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 42(14): 1619-1635
Hass A., M.G. Messina, and T.D. Rogers. 2010. Soil carbon after mid-rotation phosphorus fertilization of loblolly pine (pinus taeda l.) stands of different site drainage characteristics. Soil Science, 175(8): 382-389.
Hass A., and P. Fine. 2010. Sequential selective extraction procedure for heavy metals in soils, sediments, and waste materials – A critical review. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 40(5): 365 – 399.

Mrs. Bagyalakshmi Muthan, M.Sc., M.Phil.

Research Technician, AERS, West Virginia State University
100 Toney House, Institute, WV 25112
Phone: (304) 414-4063; Email:

Worked as visiting scholar and research technician on freezing tolerance in plants, lipid trafficking and bioenergy projects in Michigan State University, MI, USA.

Recent Publications 
Bagyalakshmi Muthan, Rebecca Roston, John Froehlich, Christoph Benning 2013. Probing Arabidopsis chloroplast diacylglycerol pools by selectively targeting bacterial diacylglycerol kinase to suborganellar membranes. Plant Physiology, September 2013, Vol. 163, pp. 61–74.
Sanjaya, Rachel Miller, Timothy P. Durrett, Dylan K. Kosma, Bagyalakshmi Muthan, Abraham J.K. Koo, Gavin E. Reid, Gregg A. Howe, John Ohlrogge, and Christoph Benning (2013). Altered Lipid Compositio and Enhanced Nutritional Value of Arabidopsis Leaves Following Introduction of an Algal Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase 2. The Plan Cell, Vol. 25: 677–693.
Eric R. Moellering, Bagyalakshmi Muthan, Christoph Benning. 2010. Freezing Tolerance in Plants Requires Lipid Remodeling at the Outer Chloroplast   Membrane. Science 330, 226.
Changcheng Xu, Eric R. Moellering, Bagyalakshmi Muthan, Jilian Fan and Christoph Benning. 2010. Lipid Transport Mediated by Arabidopsis TGD Proteins is Unidirectional from the Endoplasmic Reticulum to the PlastidPlant Cell Physiol. 51(6): 1019–1028.

Our Team

Dr. David
Dr. David  Huber, Ph.D.
Professor for Department of Biology and AERS
(304) 766-5127
Mrs. BagyalakshmiMuthan,
Mrs. Bagyalakshmi Muthan,
M.Sc., M.Phil - Research Technician for AERS
(304) 414-4063
Dr. Sanju A.
Dr. Sanju A. Sanjaya, Ph.D.
Director of Department of Biology and AERS
(304) 204-4062
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