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Lynnicia Massenburg

BMMB Graduate Student-Nixon Lab
Image of Lynnicia Massenburg
The Nixon Lab

About Me

I have a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology with a minor in Plant Science from Rutgers University. I also have a Master of Science in Plant Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am a proud keeper of two snakes, a ball python named Jabari and a corn snake named Kernel.


Research Interest

My research uses cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to understand the structure and function of plant cellulose synthase, a membrane protein that makes plant fibers used for materials and fuel.


Research Summary

Cellulose is the most abundant compound in the world and is used for food, fiber and fuel. Recent trends focus on improving the use of cell walls as a renewable biofuel source since non-renewable fuel sources may be depleted in this century. These cell walls are constructed in part by cellulose synthases (CESAs) that oligomerize to form a cellulose synthase complex (CSC) also called a rosette. Cellulose chains are made by CESAs and further assembled as microfibrils, then bundled into macrofibril “scaffolds” for plant cell wall rigidity. Structural knowledge is needed to uncover CESA catalysis, regulation and oligomerization. This study will cover CESAs from a variety of plants including Arabidopsis thaliana, moss (Physcomitrella patens), and poplar tree (Populus tremula × Populus tremuloides). My research seeks to investigate plant CESA oligomerization domains and its role in nearest-neighbor cellulose assembly using cryo-EM. Outcomes in this research will give insights on rationally designing improved biofuel crops.


Programs and Training Centers


University Committees


Honors and Awards

  • 2020 - Nomination for the PSU Eberly College of Science Climate and Diversity Award
  • 2019 - Sloan Scholar
  • 2018 - Robert Graham Endowment Graduate Fellow
  • 2017 - Dean's Distinguished Fellow
  • 2017 - Homer F. Braddock and Nellie H. and Oscar L. Roberts Fellowship
  • 2014 - National Science Foundation GRFP Fellowship
  • 2014 - Honorable Mention for the Ford Foundation Fellowship