Home Research
Rsani Research

Our Research Interests Include

Our research group is a multidisciplinary, working on diverse areas such as Extremophilic Bioprocessing, Biocatalysis, Biomaterials, Gas to liquid fuels, Genome editing of bacteria, Homo/heterologous expression of genes, Metabolic engineering, Space biology, and Bioelectrochemical systems. We have been focusing on extremophiles isolated from the deepest mine (Homestake Gold Mine; 7,800 ft. deep) to develop unique extremophilic bioprocesses for different applications including production of biofuels, biopolymers, and value-added products under thermophilic conditions (≥60℃). Homestake Gold Mine, known as Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), is located in the Black Hills, Lead, South Dakota

  • Rules of Life in Biofilms grown on 2D materials
  • Methane to Value to Value Added Products
  • Carbon dioxide sequestration by extremophiles
  • Extremophilic Bioprocessing of Solid Wastes (Agri-Wastes) to Biomaterials/Biopolymers (EPSs, PHAs, and Nano-Cellulose)
  • Genome Editing of Extremophiles (Thermophiles, Sulfate Reducing Bacteria, Methanotrophs)
  • Meta-Omics (Epigenetics, Transcriptomics, Metagenomics, Meta-transcriptomics)
  • In-silico (Simulations/Modeling of Proteins, and Bioinformatics)
  • Space Biology (Effects of Micro-Gravity on Extremophiles)
  • Anaerobic digestion of Food wastes to Biofuels (Ethanol, Butanol, Hydrogen)
Research Scientists 0
Postdoctoral fellow 2
Graduate students 12
Undergraduate students 7
1. Building Genome-to-Phenome Infrastructure for Regulating Methane in Deep and Extreme Environments (BuG ReMeDEE)

Type of Funding: NSF RII Track-2 FEC
Award:1736255 (
Time Frame: 2017-2021
Award: $6,000,000

Methane remains the second largest contributor to the radiative forcing of climate change. Its global warming potential is 34-fold more extensive than that of carbon dioxide over 100 years. Globally, 60% of methane emissions are related to anthropogenic sources, most of which are attributed to microbial methanogenesis. A significant gap in scientific knowledge is associated with methane emission and oxidation from the earth’s deep and thermally impacted biospheres. To more deeply understand these processes, this Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaborations (RII Track-2 FEC) award, led by Professor Rajesh Sani, has formed a BuG ReMeDEE consortium of 75 participants (faculty and students).

This collaborative consortium (South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Montana State University and University of Oklahoma) uses the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) and Yellowstone National Park (YNP) as testbeds for extreme environments in deep biosphere and thermal systems, respectively. The BuG ReMeDEE will accomplish:

  • Unexplored microbial species: Regulate methane in deep and extreme environments
  • Genome editing of novel (previous unexplored) methane-oxidizing microbes
  • Fundamental info on industrial techniques of converting methane into value added products (e.g., Methanol, Biopolymer, and Bioelectricity) as shown in figure.
2. Composite and Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing – Biomaterials Program (CNAM-Bio)

Type of Funding: Funded by Governor’s Office of Economic Development, South Dakota
Time Frame: 2018-2023
Award: $1,806,427

we are also engineering extremophilic microorganisms to produce PHAs from unpurified methane at high yields. Microbial breakdown of the biomass is being attempted to release cellulose nanocrystals and nanofibrils which are known to possess high strength and stiffness (similar to Kevlar® aramid fibers), a reactive surface, and a unique combination of electrical, electromagnetic and piezoelectric properties, suitable for designing biocomposites with advanced multifunctional properties. Significant further value will be added to these bioprocesses through the generation of byproducts such as biofuels. In addition, microbial electrochemical systems will be developed for accelerating biopolymer production while simultaneously removing the substrates via microbial electrosynthesis, and for purifying the polymers at a low cost in an environmentally benign manner

3. Data Driven Material Discovery (DDMD) Center for Bioengineering Innovation

Type of Funding: NSF RII Track-2 FEC
NSF Award: 1920954 

Time Frame: 2019-2023
Award: $6,000,000

Our goals are to:

  1. facilitate convergent research among investigators across the four institutions, the three jurisdictions and across disciplines of computational theory, data mining, machine learning, 2D materials science and engineering, and systems biology;
  2. develop automated approaches to material properties analysis, with the aim of better investigating nanoscopic properties that control biofilm phenotypes;
  3. accelerate development of nanostructured materials for bioengineering applications;
  4. train researchers, faculty, and students in big data and rules of life research; and
  5. enhance career pathways for middle and high school students, graduate students, research scientists, and junior faculty including under-represented Native American population.

4. Building on The 2020 Vision: Expanding Research, Education and Innovation in South Dakota

Type of Funding: NSF RII Track-1 FEC
Award: 1849206 (
Time Frame: 2019-2024
Award: $20,000,000

5. NSF 2026: EAGER: Accelerated carbon mineralization sequestration in cation rich rock formations via microbial augmentation and stimulation

Type of Funding: CBET, National Science Foundation
TimeFrame: 2021-2022
Award: $300,000.00

6. Bio-Mediated Technique to Control Phase Changes of Porous Media in Seasonally Frozen Ground

Type of Funding:  National Science Foundation
TimeFrame: 2021-2024
Award: $453,047