2113 Wisconsin Energy Institute
1552 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53726-4084
B.Sc. (Hons)., Canterbury University, New Zealand
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Plant cell wall structure, biosynthesis and utilization
Ralph’s group is recognized for their work on lignin biosynthesis, including delineation of the pathways of monolignol synthesis, lignin chemistry, and lignin reactions. He has also defined the chemical effects of perturbing lignin biosynthesis, and extensions of this work are aimed at redesigning lignins to be more readily degraded. To that end, Ralph’s group has developed synthetic methods for biosynthetic products, precursors, intermediates, molecular markers, cell wall model compounds, etc. They have developed particularly relevant methods for solution-state NMR of lignins, including whole-cell-wall methods that require no pre-fractionation of wall components, and chemical/degradative, NMR, GC-MS combinatorial methods for cell wall cross-linking mechanisms and wall structural analysis. Ralph has been recognized every year since 2007 by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) HighlyCited.com in the field of Agricultural Science. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Ralph received his B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry at Canterbury University, NZ, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry/Forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After serving as a research scientist for the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua, NZ, he became scientific head of the Research Laboratory for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Ralph has been a research chemist with the USDA-ARS U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, WI, with joint appointments in the Departments of Forestry, and Biological systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin. In 2008, Ralph was appointed Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, and since 2015 has been a Distinguished Professor at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Ralph currently serves on the editorial boards for the journals BioEnergy Research, J. Wood Chemistry and Technology, Holzforschung, and J. Science of Food and Agriculture.
Specialization and Areas of Professional Experience
• Lignin Biosynthesis (including pathway delineation), Lignin Structure, Lignin Chemistry, Lignin Reactions.
• Delineation of effects of perturbing lignin biosynthesis, and extensions aimed at redesigning lignins to be more readily degraded to improve lignocellulosics bioprocessing.
• Development of synthetic methods for biosynthetic products, precursors, intermediates, molecular markers, cell wall model compounds, etc.
• Solution-state NMR (particularly of cell wall components, especially lignins); methods development; NMR methods applied to unfractionated cell walls.
• Cell wall cross-linking mechanisms.
• Methods for wall structural analysis (chemical/degradative, NMR, GC-MS, etc.)
• Development of methods to produce commodity phenolic chemicals from lignin and plant cell wall aromatics
Areas of Expertise
- Chemical Biology & Enzymology
- Structural Biology
- Systems & Synthetic Biology