Impact story: Energy Research Seed Fund paves way for NSF grant

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Thursday, Dec 08, 2016 - 3:44 pm
Assistant Professor of Biology Amy Schmid (right) and two members of her research team (Angie Vreugdenhil, left, and Mar Martinez-Pastor, center) discuss the metabolic activity of microorganisms that reside in hypersalinated lakes.

Assistant Professor of Biology Amy Schmid’s research aims to determine the underlying mechanisms by which regulatory factors in micro-organisms enable survival during environmental stress. What might be some energy applications for this research? Amy began exploring this intriguing question in a series of conversations with Mike Lynch, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Martinez-Pastor (left) and Schmid (right) prepare samples of microbial extremophiles to test their metabolic activity.

In 2015, the Energy Research Seed Fund awarded Amy and Mike $40,000 to pursue a joint project on “Mining Metabolic Biodiversity for Bioenergy Applications.”

Fast-forward to June 2016, when Amy launched a new project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $750,000 over three years. The project, “Modeling the function and evolution of metabolic networks across hypersaline-adapted Archaea,” seeks fundamental understanding of how microorganisms gather nutrients and remain viable while facing the most extreme conditions on Earth. Amy’s research could enable numerous industrial applications, such as improved techniques for bioenergy production.

According to Amy, the Energy Research Seed Fund helped pave the way for her successful NSF proposal by enabling her collaboration with Mike. This is just the kind of interdisciplinary energy research that the Energy Initiative seeks to cultivate, positioning Duke to benefit from a big return on a modest investment. 

Learn more about the Energy Research Seed Fund.

Nov
29
Location: TBD
Time: 9:30 am to 11:00 am
Dec
01
Location: Gross Hall 330 (third floor)
Time: 11:30 am to 1:00 pm