Undergraduate Research Assistant opportunities

Undergraduate Research Assistant positions

Accepting Undergraduate Research Assistants now and for summer 2017. Consider applying by February 1 to Summer Research Institute (https://grad.arizona.edu/uroc/sri).

Undergraduate research assistant position in Trace Gas Genomics

Research in the Meredith Lab focuses on microscopic life and its immense impact on atmospheric composition. In the past, microbial life has caused dramatic shifts in the chemistry of the atmosphere, such as by initiating the buildup of oxygen in the atmosphere and in participating in the rise and fall of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) that regulate Earth’s climate. The influence of microbial life on the atmosphere continues today. In oceanic and terrestrial systems, microbes drive major components of biogeochemical cycles that release or consume gases. For example, soils host rich and diverse populations of microbes (10 billion cells per gram of soil!) that can “breathe” soil carbon compounds for energy, releasing CO2 from the soil to the atmosphere. Other soil microbes may instead utilize hydrogen (H2) from the atmosphere for energy, and uptake H2 from the atmosphere into the soil. We seek to improve understanding of the controls on soil-atmosphere gas fluxes, which will be used to improve projections by global modelers of the impact of different land management scenarios on the Earth system and its climate.

Our work addresses the following fundamental questions about microbe-mediated gas fluxes: Which microorganisms, enzymes, and genes drive specific gas fluxes and why? How can we scale up from genes, enzymes, and microbes to ecosystem-scale soil fluxes given the enormous complexity and structure of soils and the wide-ranging scales (nanometers to kilometers) involved? In ecosystems, what other biological interactions (competition, plant-microbe interactions) and abiotic factors (temperature, moisture, land use) affect the ecosystem-scale soil fluxes?

To answer these questions, we use methods in molecular microbiology and microbial ecology such as DNA extraction, sequencing, and bioinformatics to characterize microbial communities in the environment and their genomic potential for gas fluxes. In addition, we use a range of gas analyzers to measure chemicals in the atmosphere found at trace levels (10-3 to 10-12) in the atmosphere, but that have a big impact on climate and air quality. Work Meredith Lab is performed at Biosphere 2, both in the Rainforest Biome and the Landscape Evolution Observatory (http://biosphere2.org/research/projects/landscape-evolution-observatory), in the Brazilian Amazon, in rainwater harvesting earthworks around Tucson, and in idealized systems in the laboratory.

We seek an undergraduate research assistant to work on one or more of the following: bioinformatics analyses of sequence data, extraction of DNA and RNA from soils for sequencing, soil sampling and characterization, and/or trace gas flux measurements. There are no prerequisites- we will teach you what you need to know- making this is a great opportunity to gain research experience. We are looking for willingness to learn, enthusiasm for the project, and the ability to work both in a team and independently. This project would be of particular interest to students in the biological, earth, or computer sciences, but students from any major are encouraged to apply.

For more information, please email a resume and one paragraph describing your interest in the project to Professor Laura Meredith at laurameredith[at]email.arizona.edu