Sibongile Mafu

photo of Sibongile Mafu

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology


PhD: Iowa State University
Postdoctoral Training: University of California, Davis

Research Area: Plant Environment Interactions
Field of Study: Biological chemistry of plant natural products
Office: LSL N431

My interests are focused on exploring the biochemical diversity underlying plant natural product chemistry through elucidation of the biosynthetic components involved in the formation of specialized metabolites. This contributes to our understanding of the role of metabolites in adaptation of plants to their ecological niches and allows us to probe the underlying biochemical diversity and evolution of the enzymes involved.

Our research includes identification and biochemical functional characterization of enzymes towards pathway elucidation (with a focus on terpenes) and incorporation of protein engineering to gain a more in depth understanding into how enzymes of interest function. We work with a variety of plants and are particularly excited about a plant cell culture library that has a collection of several plant species, a great resource to more broadly study plant metabolic diversity.

Understanding the biochemical diversity underlying the vast natural plant product chemistry can be translated into useful agriculture or biotechnological applications including pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, flavors and fragrances.

Our research broadly covers:

•    Functional characterization of genes towards biosynthetic pathway elucidation
•    Enzyme diversity and evolution
•    Metabolic engineering