Annette Bollmann explains equipment to a student in her lab.

$5.2 million funds four microbiologists’ research from Acton Lake to Antarctica

DJ Ferguson and Jyoti Kashyap work with liquid in a flask in Ferguson's lab.
Ferguson (right) and doctoral student Jyoti Kashyap

Four Miami University microbiologists — who make up the department’s new microbiology physiology research cluster — collaborate on projects with each other and with more than a dozen researchers from other universities.

Together, they are working on five projects funded by more than $5.2 million in recent grants from three national agencies. Study sites range from nearby Acton Lake to Antarctica.

Microbes — the first living creatures on Earth — are microscopic, single-celled organisms found almost everywhere on Earth including on and inside you.

  • Microbes make up more than 60 percent of Earth’s biomass.
  • An estimated 2-3 billion species of microbes share our planet — but fewer than 0.5 percent (that’s still 10 million) have been identified.
  • Microbes generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.

From the human gut to the atmosphere

The research projects of Rachael Morgan-Kiss, Annette Bollmann and D.J. Ferguson, associate professors of microbiology, and Xin Wang, assistant professor, explore microbes in projects including:

  • Microbial engineering for the production of biofuels.
  • Manipulating microbial communities to function more efficiently for wastewater treatment.
  • Studying extremophiles to create new engineering targets for artificial photosynthesis.
  • Contributing to long-term research on climate variation in the South Pole.
  • Human gut microbes.

By the numbers:

  • Four faculty mentor nine graduate and 11 undergraduate students on these projects.
  • They collaborate with 13 researchers from 11 universities.
  • One internationally-known artist, Xavier Cortada, is working with students and researchers.

Read their stories:

Click on the links to read their stories in Miami’s Campus News.

Rachael Morgan-Kiss and Xin Wang: “Antarctic algae, alternative photosynthesis and art.”

D.J. Ferguson and Xin Wang: “Microbes, QAs, methane: Top to bottom.”

Annette Bollmann: “Microbial ‘neighbors’ improve ammonia removal in wastewater.”

Xin Wang: “Engineering microbes.”

Spotlight on undergraduate research:

These faculty each mentor several undergraduate research students. Learn more about their research at Miami’s 25th Annual Undergraduate Research Forum, April 23-24.

Morgan-Kiss: All students in her Microbial Ecology (MBI 475/575) class will present posters about their work with samples from Antarctica.

Xavier Cortada, an internationally-known environmental artist based in Miami, Florida, will meet with the class to help them design posters for a broad, general audience.

Ferguson’s lab group: Sarah Soppe, senior microbiology major and Spanish double major, and Claire Papamarcos, senior microbiology major and environmental science co-major.

Bollmann’s lab group: Conor Dolson, senior microbiology major and premedical studies co-major.

Wang’s lab group: Kaya Mernitz, senior microbiology major and premedical studies co-major.

Written by Susan Meikle, University News Writer/Editor, University Communications and Marketing, Miami University. Originally appeared as a “Top Story” on Miami University’s News and Events website.

Photos of D.J. Ferguson and Annette Bollmann by Scott Kissell, Miami University Photo Services.


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