Erik Zinser, assistant professor of microbiology, has established an independent, internationally recognized research program and is regarded as an extremely creative, capable and promising scholar in his area of research. His work on the marine bacterium Prochlorococcus is of utmost importance as scientists strive to understand, model and predict the impact of human activities on open ocean ecosystems and climate. He was recently awarded his second highly-competitive NSF grant, for $1.4 million.
A recent major contribution provided, for the first time, a means to grow Prochlorococcus as colonies on plates and as dilute liquid cultures, a method sought since the discovery of the organism in 1988. The “trick” was to co-culture the Prochlorococcus with heterotrophic bacteria, which help them to grow when rare. This finding was extended to show, in a paper published in a leading journal in January, 2011, that the growth of Prochlorococcus in its natural environment was dependent on hydrogen peroxide-scavenging microbes at the ocean surface.
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