Professor Foston’s research objective is to create a top tier, world recognized research program in the research and education of emerging technologies for exploitation of lignocellulosic biomass, in particular the lignin fraction of biomass, as a sustainable source for energy, chemicals and materials production. His primary research themes are:
(1) the characterization of biomass (i.e., plant cell wall) in an effort to understand, design, and optimize its downstream conversion,
(2) the development of processes that are designed to convert lignin into value-added chemicals and materials, and
(3) the synthesis novel biomass-derived synthetic polymers for specific applications.
He is a Faculty Fellow in the NSF STC: Center for Engineering Mechanobiology. This center brings together leading researchers from a diverse group of disciplines and institutions to investigate, understand, and innovate at the intersection of biology, mechanics, and engineering. The center will train a new generation of scientists and engineers in the emerging discipline of Mechanobiology, specifically how to use mechanical force to engineer plant cell walls and how plant cell wall respond to mechanical force.
In 2012, Marcus Foston became a professor in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his PhD in Polymer Chemistry in the Material Science and Engineering Department at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2008. At that time, his interest was in the synthesis and polymer dynamics of unquid polymer topologies, in particular cyclic polymers and polyrotaxanes, through the application of advanced solid state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). His postdoctoral fellowship was conducted as part of the DOE BioEnergy Science Center and under the guidance of Dr. Arthur Ragauskas, a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy, in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Institute of Technology. During this period, his research focused on use of advanced solution and solid state NMR techniques to study the chemistry, dynamics and mechanism of deconstruction of lignocellulose to form biofuels, biomaterials, and biocomposites.