Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology

Nikolau Research Group

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The Nikolau Research Group

Research in the Nikolau Group is focused on the comprehensive understanding of metabolism. The lab is particularly focused on the discovery and characterization of novel metabolic processes, and the associated biocatalysts, utilizing expanding genomics resources as the starting point for these endeavors.

The past decade has seen an explosion of genomics datasets, which have revolutionized the way biological systems are defined. Yet the majority of the gene sequences that are deposited at databases are ambiguously annotated relative to biochemical functionality.  These gaps in knowledge therefore offer opportunities for novel discoveries that can be used to generate innovative metabolic solutions to societally defined issues.

These research activities are providing opportunities for research-based education and training of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as post-doctoral researchers.


Dr. Nikolau is the Frances M. Craig Professor of Biochemistry at Iowa State University where he has taught and conducted research since 1988. He was awarded his Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Massey University, New Zealand, in 1982, and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Utah before joining the faculty of Iowa State University. Dr. Nikolau's research interests focus on the biochemistry and molecular biology of biotin and biotin-containing enzymes and the regulation of plant lipid metabolism.

Nikolau group research is conducted in the Molecular Biology Building and the 4th floor of the Biorenewables Research Laboratory (BRL 4th).


Faculty Membership:

News & Updates

Tonsager awarded Stupka scholarship
December 6, 2016
Drew Tonsager, a BS-MS student in the Nikolau research group, has been named a Stupka Scholar for 2017-2018. In announcing the award, the scholarship committee noted "Stupka scholars are recognized for their involvement in research but also their leadership in the BBMB Undergraduate Club and the Stupka UGRS [Undergraduate Research Symposium]. Drew is an outstanding member of our student group and has been a peer mentor of our B&B Learning Community for three years." Congratulations, Drew!

The scholarship is named in honor of Rob Stupka, a biochemistry student who died in 2005.

NSF-JST Review
December 6, 2016
Nikolau group members Alexis Campbell and Basil Nikolau participated in the NSF-JST assessment held December 2 at NSF headquarters. NSF-JST is a joint program between the National Science Foundation and the Japan Science and Technology Agency whose purpose is to study metabolomics for a low carbon society.
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New Plant Journal publishes article
September 2, 2016
Congratulations to Luda Rizhsky, Adarsh Jose and Basil Nikolau on their new Plant Journal article, Integrating metabolomics and transcriptomics data to discover a biocatalyst that can generate the amine precursors for alkamide biosynthesis, epublished ahead of print on August 6.

Nikolau presents at international lipids symposium

June 13, 2016; updated June 15, 2016

Basil Nikolau was an invited speaker at the International Symposium on Lipids Science and Health held May 26-27 at the Oil Crops Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS) in Wuhan, China.

His presentation addressed recent advances in identification and characterization of plant cell biocatalytic components that comprise fatty acid synthase, and illustrated how these catalytic machines can be bioengineered to impact global sources of dietary fats and oils and improve human health.

The meeting culminated in the signing of a statement of multi-lateral international collaboration among fourteen institutions in six countries, including Iowa State University, focusing on joint research and capacity building. Collaborative efforts will encompass joint application for research support, and technology transfer, encouragement of joint research activities in lipid science, exchange of scientific staff and students, exchange of information and materials, and co-organization of academic conferences.

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