At IU, I will be directing my research focus into an exciting new field. Due to the great research being done at IU with various Vibrio species, I will focus my avenue of the ASURE program on the bioengineering of Vibrio natriegens. Unlike its more pathogenic family members (i.e., V. cholerae), V. natiegens does not cause disease, reportedly reproduces in under ten minutes, and has great potential to be a molecular and production workhorse (like Escherichia coli). Throughout the ASURE program, students will utilize the technique MuGENT (developed in the Dalia lab) to add fragments of DNA into V. natriegens. These DNA fragments can add, subtract, or alter the metabolic capabilities of the organism—giving rise to new substrains. Students will pursue set metabolic pathways in their first semester and expand outwards into new pathways when they are comfortable. This will generate a bank of metabolically and phenotypically interesting mutants for IU and the scientific community to pursue in further studies.
At Colorado State University, I worked with Dr. Ed Hall as a postdoctoral fellow. There I revived a technique to measure femtomolar concentrations of the biologically-important elements carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. The ratio of these elements in biomass can tell scientists a number of things about the nutritional state of an ecosystem. Yet, for microbial communities, stoichiometric analyses are almost solely done at the community level. Thus, we had little idea what the stoichiometry of the microbes within the community looked like. Using energy dispersive spectroscopy on a scanning electron microscope, I was able to begin answering that question.
At Michigan State University, where I was a graduate student with Dr. Gemma Reguera and Dr. Kazem Kashefi, I worked on extremophilic bacteria and archaea. These organisms grow at temperature above boiling and most reduce metals instead of oxygen to gain energy. I focused on one organism in particular—Geoglobus ahangari. This organism grows at 85 degrees Celsius, without oxygen, and can only 'breathe' iron. To discover how it accomplished all of this, I sequenced and annotated the genome of G. ahangari, performed experiments to discover how it is able to 'breathe' iron at high temperatures, and studied its two types of extracellular filaments to see whether they had any interesting properties.