Katherine Andrews works in the area of translational science, with a focus on integrated energy systems. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Illinois, performing research on protein chemistry and bioenergetics in photosynthetic bacteria. After several years in academic science, she moved to the private sector, taking on roles of increasing responsibility in computational drug discovery, bioinformatics, genomics, and metabolic engineering. She ultimately joined Sandia National Labs to lead their entry into bioenergy and biofuels and, in 2007, she served as co-founder of the Joint Bioenergy Institute in Emeryville, CA. Her scientific interests continue to be focused on understanding biomass feedstocks to accelerate domestic production of transportation fuels.
Science focus: Katherine’s research is aimed at development of naturally occurring, locally-obtained algae for production of biofuels and chemicals and wastewater treatment. In particular, she is developing strategies to enable algae to release valuable oils and chemicals without traditional, expensive harvest methods, particularly drying and extraction. Biomass production and supply capacity needs to be developed in balance with improved agricultural management to avoid conflicts with food supply and biodiversity. To address this, she performs techno-economic studies on integrated energy-agriculture systems, using computer modeling methods. Her goal is to create and merge technologies for biomass conversion to high quality fuels, and to develop a framework for local organizations to evaluate opportunities specific to their geographical regions and to build production capacity for sustainable biomass.
Engineering focus: Katherine works collaboratively with scientists and engineers from all sectors to design, finance, and build integrated energy parks. Since sustainability can only be achieved by keeping costs low and through integration of diverse capabilities, she has been a champion of placing emerging technologies side by side with mature manufacturing facilities. Optimization of bioenergy production technology and strategic planning for potential investors is done based on process modeling, pilot plant operation, statistical design, and plant-level simulation. Current commercial projects include algal production of biofuels and high value chemicals integrated with wastewater treatment and separately, with a coal power plant where the algae are fed flue gas. She also works with the coal industry to reduce toxic emissions by co-firing coal with biomass
Business focus: As an executive-level consultant for startups and investors in the area of strategic development, Katherine builds external relationships that lead to successful outcomes. She performs technical due diligence for investors, working closely with science teams to understand their technologies and to validate their business models. Startup companies often need turn-around management and coaching to make the transition across the “Valley of Death” that occurs between early R&D grant funding and commercial success. She works alongside CEOs, management, and technical teams to define and fill missing roles until financing and new hires are in place to take the company to the next level, and to form spin-outs and development partnerships in the biotechnology and bioenergy industries