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Metabolic responses in nitrifying bacteria: Nitrifying bacteria play a vital role in the nitrogen cycle, which supports all life on earth. In addition, they help to purify water by removing ammonia. We’re working to discover how nitrifying bacteria respond metabolically when exposed to harmful environmental pollutants. To better understand how these very important microorganisms function and how we may protect them, we are using genomic and proteomic methods to evaluate metabolic responses of nitrifying bacteria to selected environmental pollutants. A goal of our research is to develop techniques for fast and easy appraisal of the health and activity of nitrification processes in both natural and engineered systems.
Bio-based hydrogen energy systems: Global energy demand is projected to increase tremendously over the next few decades, especially in developing countries. But current patterns of fossil fuel consumption raise serious questions about adverse environmental and health effects, including global warming. Using a multifaceted, interdisciplinary approach, we are working to develop bio-based methods for safe, efficient, and economical production of hydrogen to serve as an energy carrier for fuel cells or for internal combustion engines. Systems of this type promise ultimately to be much cleaner and more efficient than current, fossil-fuel-based energy systems.