New projects are posted on BURA, with possibly other opportunities to work on the microbiology of biofuels and climate change available. Both wet lab and computational projects are available! Email Kristen (with a resume or cv) for more information. The posted projects can be viewed after the jump.
In addition to the two independent study projects listed below, we are also seeking to hire a paid student to help make measurements on our isolates collection. Work-study students are encouraged to apply!
Title 1: Developing model ecosystems to understand the plant microbiome
Microbes are required for healthy plant growth and stress response, though the link between specific microbes and specific traits conferred to plants is still poorly defined. Model organisms and systems are integral to gaining a mechanistic understanding how these complex systems work. By holding all other factors constant, one can perturb one aspect of the system and infer its function.
In this project, the student will work towards developing a model plant-soil-microbial system in order to test which microbes or microbial functions are essential for plant growth and stress response. The DeAngelis lab has developed an artificial soil that is currently being deployed for testing the effects of water and heat stress on microbial communities under different nutrient regimes. Working in collaboration with the Hazen and Ma labs, the student will grow Brachypodium distachyon, a model grass, in the artificial soil. This project could be the foundation for an applied or fundamental study of plant-microbial interactions as the basis for a senior thesis or equivalent.
Title 2: The microbiology of climate change: Adopt a microbe!
Climate change is the most pressing issue of people today, and while humans play an outsized role in the accelerated self-reinforcing feedbacks to climate, microbes can be a major source or sink for carbon. How microbes respond to climate change remains poorly defined, and this project is part of a larger endeavor to better link molecular data like genomics and metagenomic to climate and ecosystem data to better understand the role of microbes in ecosystem processes.
In this project, the student will adopt a microbe from among our culture collection of bacteria isolated from the soil of a 27-year experimental soil warming study, and spend the semester characterizing this organism. There is a prescribed set of traits to be measured for isolates, including growth rates, substrate range, optimum temperature, and ability to degrade complex carbon sources. Students will also have the opportunity to characterize the genome sequences of the isolate, and test hypotheses arising from the sequence data as part of future research which could include a senior thesis or equivalent.