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Marine Sciences Division

George Bonheyo

George Bonheyo

Marine Sciences Laboratory
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
1529 West Sequim Bay Road
Sequim, Washington 98382


Dr. George Bonheyo is a Senior Research Scientist and the Biotechnology Team Lead in the Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington. He also has a joint appointment as a Research Professor of Bioengineering in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. He has over 25 years of experience applying genetic engineering and molecular microbiology to address challenges in national security, environment, human health, and biotechnology. He received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studied geomicrobiology and polymicrobial diseases as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and was the cofounder and CEO of GeoBiologics, Inc., which provided novel products and services for microbial detection, identification, and enumeration. Dr. Bonheyo transferred his stake in the company in 2005 and joined the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to develop the biotechnology program at PNNL’s Marine Science Laboratory.

As a PI and project manager at PNNL, his programs have spanned fundamental through applied research in biosecurity, the use of synthetic biology to create living sensors and control systems, oil spill response, the molecular basis of pathogenesis, biofilms and biofouling, biocorrosion, bioremediation, geo-temporal dynamics of the human microbiome, and the transport, fate, and detection of bio-signatures. Dr. Bonheyo served on the leadership team of PNNL’s $16M Signature Discovery Initiative from 2009-2016 and has been the PI, PM, or co lead on over $34M in funded projects through 2016. He has served on US national intelligence panels related to biosecurity, served as a panelist on multi-agency workshops on synthetic biology, and has authored technology forecasts and reviews on the security implications of emerging fields in biotechnology. As an active mentor for junior scientists, he has developed workshops and training material on writing white papers and proposals, business development, creating elevator pitches, and delivering presentations.

Research Interests

  • Dr. Bonheyo’s core programmatic work applies genetic engineering and molecular biology to address microbiological problems in national security, the environment, human health, and biotechnology. Research programs include:
  • Sensor systems for maritime, industrial, and laboratory operations
  • Synthetic biology applied to create novel materials and sensors; developing genetic systems in non-traditional and recalcitrant species of prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and phage
  • Biosecurity: threat analysis and empirical validation; detection and response strategies
  • Basic and applied research in biofouling, biofilms, and antifouling for sensors, marine hydrokinetic systems, industry, and health care
  • New technologies for oil spill response; characterization of deep ocean oil releases
  • Bioremediation: strategies, genetic engineering, monitoring and testing (bacteria, bacteriophage, and fungi)
  • Capture, retention, and recovery of environmental signatures from biofilms
  • Carbon and nutrient cycling in coastal environments
  • Extraction of uranium from seawater as an alternative to terrestrial mining
  • Biomarkers: applications for tracking the fate, transport, and persistence of chemical, biological, or radioactive contaminants; applications to paleoenvironmental reconstruction and sedimentary facies modeling; applications to modeling environmental reservoirs of pathogens and gene clusters
  • Microbial community dynamics: the impact of environmental perturbations or instability upon diversity and gene expression, strategies and patterns of successive colonization, and the transport and dispersal of bacteria
  • Horizontal gene transfer and its impacts on adaptation, evolution, and disease
  • Carbonate geomicrobiology and microbe-mineral interactions in hot springs
  • Etiology and ecology of polymicrobial diseases of corals

Education and Credentials

  • 2014-2016 PNNL Management Skills Development Program
  • Derivative Classifier, US Department of Energy (2008-present)
  • 1999-2002 NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Carbonate geomicrobiology, ecology and etiology of polymicrobial disease
  • 1999 Ph.D. Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Thesis: The DNA transfer region of Bacteroides conjugative transposons TcrEmrDOT and TcrERL
  • 1993 M.S. Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 1991 B.S. Biology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

Affiliations and Professional Service

  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Chemical Society

Awards and Recognitions

  • Exceptional Contribution Program (ECP) Award, PNNL for 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015
  • Outstanding Performance Award, PNNL National Security Directorate 2008, 2013, 2016
  • Outstanding Performance Award, PNNL Energy & Environment Directorate, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016
  • Project selected to be among 10 representing the entire US Intelligence Community at the 7th Annual IC Technology Exposition at the US Capitol Building, 2012
  • National Science Foundation Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2000-2002
  • University of Illinois, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, 1997
  • University of Illinois Clark Fellowship for excellence in teaching, 1992 and 1994
  • Bucknell University Research Fellowship, 1990
  • National Merit Scholar (Eastman Kodak sponsored), 1987-1991

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Marine Sciences Laboratory
1529 W. Sequim Bay Road
Sequim, WA 98382
Phone: (360) 683-4151
Fax: (360) 681-3699