Marcus Foston

Marcus Foston
Assistant Professor
Senior Investigator
Washington University in St. Louis


Organic chemistry
Material science
Chemical engineering


Our research program seeks to develop innovative and novel routes to exploit and utilize plant biomass, a readily available and low-cost feedstock; thus, taking advantage of massive material flows resulting from traditional industries such as papermaking and forestry products, emerging biofuels markets and the increasing global presence and growth of the integrated "biorefinery."

We are motivated by recent and widespread concerns regarding the need to develop more sustainably "green" technologies to meet global manufacturing and energy demands, reducing the world's dependency on conventional and non-renewable natural resources, minimizing environmental impact and decreasing the rising costs of energy and material feedstock.

Our research program integrates organic chemistry, biology, material science and chemical engineering to:

  • investigate and understand the assembly of our feedstock, plant cell walls
  • develop efficient and scalable strategies to convert that feedstock into novel, sustainable and value-added material
  • provide key insight into differences between downstream non-renewable and renewable systems to facilitate rationale design

Our approach relies heavily on characterization, using a variety of analytical techniques in particular solution and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and imaging, affording a unique understanding of conversion technology, feedstock and downstream material. We would like to understand at multiple length scales how component structure affects conversion and structure-property relationships in generated materials.