Microbes

Unlocking the mystery of methane clathrates — on Earth and on our solar system’s icy moons

Structure of a methane clathrate block found embedded in sediment in the subduction zone off Oregon’s coast. A German research ship found this hydrate roughly 4,000 feet below the ocean’s surface in the top layer of the ocean floor. (Photo Courtesy: Wusel007 via Wikimedia Commons)

Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are thought to lie in cold storage within Earth’s permafrost and under its oceans. That gas, however, is trapped within cage-like chemical structures called methane clathrates. Scientists are very interested in these structures, because they may have cousins hidden under the surface of the icy moons in the outer solar system.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Johnston, Zhang produce two of Georgia Tech’s best Ph.D. dissertations this year

Former Ph.D. students Shelly Zhang and Eric Johnston, who have won the Sigma Xi Best Ph.D. Thesis award for 2019.

Sigma Xi has recognized the work of two recently graduated civil and environmental engineering doctoral students as some of the best of the year at Georgia Tech.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

NSF funds two new projects to understand greenhouse gas emissions from soil, expand microbial big-data analysis tools

Microbes in soil can break down nitrous oxide, N2O, into harmless nitrogen, N2, but they don't always do a good job, according to Professor Kostas Konstantinidis. He has a new grant from the National Science Foundation to understand why. The problem is that the nitrous oxide is a powerful and damaging greenhouse gas. The study will focus on agricultural land, where nitrogen is often added to soil as fertilizer, and tropical forests. (Image Courtesy: Kostas Konstantinidis)

Kostas Konstantinidis has received two new grants from the National Science Foundation that promise to help researchers better understand some of the tiniest organisms on the planet.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Karthikeyan’s research uncovering a new oil-eating microbe wins top student award at Gulf oil spill conference

Pensacola Beach in the Florida Panhandle, one of the areas where oil washed ashore after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. (Photo Courtesy: Smruthi Karthikeyan)

Ph.D. student Smruthi Karthikeyan has returned from a gathering of scientists studying the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill with the top award for student research.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New faculty member Xing Xie works to clean water by killing bad microbes and harnessing the power of useful ones

New faculty member Xing Xie stands in the lobby of the Ford Environmental Science and Technology Building. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)

Xing Xie's work takes a two-pronged approach to environmental engineering: “One is the material; the other is the microbe," he said.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tsementzi wins Sigma Xi Best PhD Dissertation award for her widely published work in environmental microbiology

Despina Tsementzi has won the Sigma Xi Best Ph.D. Dissertation award for 2017. (Courtesy: Despina Tsementzi)

Georgia Tech’s scientific and engineering honor society has recognized Despina Tsementzi’s doctoral dissertation as one of the best of the year. Tsementzi, who finished her Ph.D. in the fall, has won the Sigma Xi Best Ph.D. Dissertation award for 2017. She’s one of only 10 students across campus to earn the distinction.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Study sheds light on key role for ‘rare’ aquatic microbes in dealing with pollution, balancing ecosystems

School of Civil and Environmental Engineering researchers have found that bacteria present in only small numbers in freshwater systems contain key genes that help the broader microbial community respond to environmental changes such as pollution or oil spills. The team used water from Lake Lanier northeast of Atlanta to test how microbial communities respond to common organic compounds. (Photo Courtesy: PBT1981 via Wikimedia Commons)

Even bacteria found in small numbers in freshwater communities play an essential role in maintaining the ecosystem and responding to environmental changes, according to new work from researchers in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. This “rare biosphere,” as they called it, carries important genes for breaking down organic pollutants, which can help the entire microbial community withstand environmental changes. Their study appeared March 3 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Danger in the air? Brown wins NSF CAREER grant to find out

Assistant Professor Joe Brown has won an Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. These so-called CAREER grants recognize promising young faculty with funds to help them establish the research director of their careers. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)

When Joe Brown went to India last summer, he was hoping to collect samples that could help answer some questions he’d been thinking about for a while. His years studying sanitation and global health had given him the idea that the open sewers and overflowing latrines common in the dense cities of the developing world could be linked with disease through an unusual mechanism: airborne transmission of pathogens.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Genomics technique could revolutionize how we detect bacteria in food poisoning outbreaks

Microbiologists use next-generation sequencing technology to identify a bacterial DNA fingerprint. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A new testing methodology based on metagenomics could accelerate the diagnosis of foodborne bacterial outbreaks, allowing public health officials to identify the microbial culprits in less than a day. The methodology could also identify co-infections with secondary microbes, determine the specific variant of the pathogen, and help alert health officials to the presence of new or unusual pathogens.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dynamic model helps scientists understand healthy lakes to heal sick ones

Lake Mendota near Madison, Wisconsin. Georgia Tech researchers used long-term data on the lake’s microbial communities to develop what may be the largest-ever dynamic model of how those communities interact. The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Kostas Konstantinidis says that could help restore sick lakes and may one day help scientists better understand the human body’s microbiome. (Photo: Good Free Photos)

Development of a dynamic model for microbial populations in healthy lakes could help scientists understand what’s wrong with sick lakes, prescribe cures and predict what may happen as environmental conditions change. Those are among the benefits expected from an ambitious project to model the interactions of some 18,000 species in a well-studied Wisconsin lake.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

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