Christopher Simmons

Christopher Simmons

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Food Science and Technology


Simmons, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology, specializes in energy and water efficiency in food processing. Simmons completed his Ph.D. in biological systems engineering at UC Davis and worked for two years as a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis and the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, researching biofuels and sustainable agriculture. He joined the CA&ES faculty in 2013.

Research interests:

Energy, water use and quality, food processing, genetics, microorganisms, soil science, sustainability, metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, microbial communities, lignocellulose deconstruction, biofuels, bioenergy

Brief overview:

The viability of the food processing industry is linked to sustainable use of energy and water, particularly in agricultural hubs like California. My research focuses on improving energy and water-use efficiency in food processing. I am interested in improving strategies to convert leftover food residue from food processing into biofuels that can offset energy used during processing. I investigate how certain microbes break down and convert these residues into fuels. By better understanding these processes, we hope to maximize the amount of biofuel obtained from food processing residues. Additionally, I investigate methods to use food processing wastewater for agricultural irrigation. This work focuses on crops with a high tolerance for salt and on the response of soil microbes to wastewater application.

Current projects:

  • Understanding microbial deconstruction of tomato pomace through metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analyses (techniques that tell us which genes are expressed by microbes that break down the tomato pomace)
  • Pretreatment of solid food processing residues to improve deconstruction and anaerobic digestion into biogas
  • Designing microbial communities for enhanced hydrogen and methane production during anaerobic digestion of tomato and grape pomace
  • Soil microbial community responses to food processing wastewater application
  • Bioconcentration of salts from saline food processing through irrigation of salt-tolerant crops