Alison Buchan is an associate professor as well as associate head in the Department of Microbiology. She is also the associate director for graduate education on the NIMBioS leadership team. Buchan is recognized for the recent publication of a paper from her group in the prestigious ISME Journal published by the Nature publishing group.
In the latest publication from her lab, one group she co-ordinates (which includes students and faculty from chemistry and microbiology) has shown how the biochemical basis of cells change during virus infection. Supported by a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the work demonstrates, using an ecologically relevant bacterium (a member of the roseobacter group, which are about 10% of all the bacteria in the ocean) that cells undergo massive biochemical changes to the point where they can be considered physiologically distinct from their uninfected counterparts.
The results have implications not only for virus-host infections on the microbial scale, but in the bigger picture for marine and global carbon cycles, because viruses (at nearly 10 million in every milliliter of seawater) and the bacteria they infect (about one million in every milliliter of seawater) process the bulk of organic matter in the oceans (the world’s largest carbon sink), and changes to cellular biochemistry because of their interactions markedly shape these carbon cycles.