Joshua Yuan

Joshua Yuan

Pronouns: He/him/his
Department Chair and Lucy & Stanley Lopata Professor

Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

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    Brauer Hall, Suite 1010


PhD, University of Tennessee, 2007
MS, University of Arizona, 2001
BS, Fudan University, 1997


Employs mechanism-based engineering design to address the challenges in energy, the environment and health


Joshua Yuan’s research encompasses four major directions: renewable biomaterials, carbon capture and utilization, integrated biorefining, systems and synthetic biology. For renewable biomaterial, he has pioneered new chemical fractionation and manufacturing technologies along with feedstock design to process lignin into quality carbon fibers, bioplastics, recyclable polymer and biodegradable plastics composites, biodiesel, nanoparticle, asphalt binder modifier and other products. The technology breakthroughs are based on fundamental understanding of structure-function relationship between lignin chemistry and renewable material performance. Furthermore, his team have engineered microorganisms to convert lignin and other waste products into structurally preferred PHA for broad bioplastic applications.

For carbon capture and utilization (CCU), his team integrated artificial intelligence and synthetic biology to develop algal cultivation technologies achieving the highest reported outdoor productivity. Based on this technology, they are advancing novel CCU platforms for flue gas, direct air capture, and various other CO2 emissions. Furthermore, his team is advancing new electro-microbial platforms for CCU.

For integrated biorefining, Professor Yuan’s team addressed the dilemma of "lignin-first" and "carbohydrate-first" processes and designed novel biorefining procedures to synergistically derive more processable lignin and carbohydrate. Together with the biomaterial design and synthetic biology, these engineering technologies could potentially enable the integrated biorefinery with multiple product streams for profitability and sustainability.

For systems and synthetic biology, Professor Yuan’s team advanced the fundamental understanding of photosynthetic carbon repartition from sugar metabolism to terpene biosynthesis. The research has led to the sustainable manufacturing platform for squalene, an essential vaccine adjuvant, cosmetic and nutraceutical product. The research also empowered efficient biomass processing and algal biofuels and bioproduct manufacturing.


Joshua Yuan joined the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis in 2022. Previously, he was a faculty member at Texas A&M University since 2008 and was appointed as the Chair for Synthetic Biology and Renewable Products in 2018. Dr. Yuan was a Sungrant Fellow at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and National Renewable Energy Lab before joining Texas A&M. He has served on various leadership and management positions at Texas A&M University, University of Tennessee, and University of California, San Francisco from 2001. Dr. Yuan also worked in BASF from 2000 to 2001. He has been awarded three U.S. patents and has two pending. He has written more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, published in Nature Communications, Green Chemistry, Chem, Advanced Sciences, ChemSusChem, and Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences USA, among others. He has won numerous awards and honors, including the Regional Solid Waste Planning Award and the Environmental Educator Award in 2018; the Excellence in Innovation Award from Texas A&M University System in 2017; and Gamma Sigma Delta Outstanding Graduate Student Award in 2007, among others.