Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Michigan State University
2215 Biomedical Physical Sciences East Lansing, MI 48824-4320
Undergrad and Grad Info:
Adjunct Professor, MSU
Professor, University of Michigan
Ph.D., The Ohio State University
Postdoctoral Fellow: Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Indiana University
6180 Biomedical Physical Sciences
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Research in my laboratory is focused in the general areas of microbial ecology and physiology. We routinely develop and apply techniques of molecular biology to explore the diversity of microbial communities without the potential bias introduced by cultivation methods. We then use this phylogenetic information to guide cultivation efforts and design nucleic acid probes that permit quantitative assessment of the structure of microbial communities. Currently, we are directing efforts towards the microbial communities in soils at the Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research Site, in particular bacteria that are involved in the flux of greenhouse gases. We are beginning to uncover spatial and temporal patterns of diversity in these microbial ecosystems, and continue to explore other environments, including medically important niches including the GI tract of humans.
As we develop a better appreciation for the structure of microbial communities, we are conducting research to uncover mechanisms that drive these patterns of distribution. A particular point of interest is the hypotheses that a tradeoff between power and efficiency in microbes underlies their distribution in nature. Just as car buyers are familiar with a tradeoff between horsepower and fuel efficiency, this research suggests a similar tradeoff in a central feature of cellular metabolism - protein synthesis. Protein synthesis consumes the majority of energy in bacteria, and as an essential process performed by similar machinery in all microbes, it is frequently the target of antibiotics. Subtle changes in this machinery appear to poise bacteria for a lifestyle of either explosive growth or efficient growth and survival. We have recently identified one feature of the genome, the number of ribosomal RNA operons, that is related to the ecological strategies of bacteria. As the collection of novel microbial isolates expands and their genome sequences are determined, we will use this information to develop a better understanding for the evolution and ecology of natural microbial communities.
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