Soils are some of the most diverse microbial habitats on Earth. Billions of bacteria and other microbes coexist in every gram of soil, making soils one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet. These microbes live in very low-nutrient conditions, and their growth often depends on nutrients released by other organisms. Soil microbial communities are critical for earth’s biogeochemical cycling and carbon sequestration, and have a significant impact on climate change. Thus, it is important to understand how soil microbes interact by releasing nutrients to share with others. The overall goal of this project is to understand how soil bacteria interact by sharing nutrients.
We are focusing on corrinoids, the vitamin B12 family of cofactors, to understand how soil bacteria share nutrients. We chose corrinoids as our model nutrients because genomic data suggests that they are shared (a majority of bacteria in the environment require corrinoids, yet only a fraction of bacteria are able to produce them). By looking at only one family of nutrients, we can take a closer look at bacterial interactions in soil.
As a member of the Taga lab, you will work with cultured soil bacteria to determine how and when they release corrinoids into the environment. You will learn techniques for culturing bacteria, assaying growth, lysing cells, and measuring nutrient concentrations. Most importantly, you will gain experience in experimental design and execution, as well as data analysis.
No prior lab experience is needed, but a strong enthusiasm for lab research and intellectual engagement with the project are required. You should have three or more 3-hour time blocks per week available in your schedule for the entire semester. We encourage students requiring financial assistance to apply (please contact us about details).
Please include a few sentences about yourself in your application. We are not interested in your GPA but rather in your interests, for example what made you choose your major, which courses did you enjoy most (again: not interested in grades), and what are you hoping to do with your education.