James Payne is a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of bioengineering at Stanford. James is interested in protein engineering and metabolic engineering as avenues toward green manufacturing to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. At Stanford, James is a member of Prof. Christina Smolke's group, where he is working at the interface of chemistry and biology to engineer yeast strains that manufacture novel chemicals that synthetic chemistry has historically struggled to produce. This work is an extension of his graduate research at the University of Chicago, where James engineered enzymes to replace particularly environmentally harmful steps in chemical syntheses. James earlier received undergraduate degrees in chemistry and astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he researched the origins and evolution of massive stars in a nearby galaxy.
James's work has been supported over the years by numerous awards, including a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Stanford School of Medicine Dean's Fellowship, an American Chemical Society Organic Syntheses Fellowship, a Chicago Biomedical Consortium Scholars Program Fellowship, and a National Institutes of Health Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Grant. James also currently serves as a commissioner on the Environmental Quality Commission for the city of Menlo Park, California, where he advises the city council on how the city and its residents can most effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and general waste and maximize green space in the city.