“We’re trying to understand how to decompose existing plastics as well as design new compostable plastics that use biomaterial—trees, grass, corn stalk—as a starting point. I use computational methods to study polymer structures and how to decompose them. Enzymes have all these tricks—it’s so neat, when they’re breaking down sugars they bend the molecules to make them more reactive. We’re trying to see what we can make from biomass that has better properties than traditional plastics. Of course a big advantage of biomass is it’s compostable—there are already organisms that have evolved to degrade it.