Twice a year, the DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program awards graduate students the opportunity to pursue part of their thesis research at one of the DOE national laboratories or national user facilities. As a result of the latest call, a total of 70 graduate students from 52 universities were selected to carry out part of their thesis research at 12 host national laboratories or facilities between 3-12 consecutive months. Their proposed research projects address scientific challenges central to Office of Science mission areas across the 6 Office of Science research programs.
Among the recipients of the latest SCGSR award is Mo Kaze, part of the 2018 cohort of the JGI-UC Merced Genomics Internship Program. Kaze is part of Mark Sistrom’s lab at the UC Merced School of Natural Sciences.
“I’m deeply concerned about climate change and this is a remarkable opportunity to launch a pilot project and begin the work of understanding how engineered environments contribute to greenhouse gases,” Kaze said. “It’s an exciting time in the field of genomics and JGI scientists are developing cutting edge technologies to answer our most pressing problems. I’m very much looking forward to working with JGI and LBNL scientists and have access to unique lab resources. Berkeley Lab is the home to an exceptional caliber of scientists.”
For her project, “Microbial Community Structure and Methane Production in California’s Canal System,” she will work with Susannah Tringe, JGI’s User Programs deputy and head of the Microbial Systems group. Tringe’s research group focuses on the roles of microbial communities in wetland carbon cycling and the interactions of plants with their associated microbiomes. Tringe was also Kaze’s mentor during her 2018 internship, in which she explored anthropogenic impacts on wetland microbiome composition and metabolism, work on which she will expand with her study of microbes in California’s manmade water transport canals. “This award allows me to work directly with Dr Susannah Tringe, gain first hand experience working in a national lab, and, with some hard work and a little luck, make a contribution,” Kaze added.
The JGI-UC Merced Internship Program was developed between the two institutions to help train the next generation workforce. Since its inception in 2014, more than 20 UC Merced students have contributed to the research of 13 JGI scientists through the JGI-UC Merced Genomics Internship.
Dr. Tringe will also serve as a mentor for another SCGSR awardee, Ian Rambo from Brett Baker’s lab at the University of Texas-Austin. Rambo will be studying the influence of viruses on carbon cycling in coastal mangroves. The work complements an existing JGI Community Science Program proposal from the Baker lab to study microbial communities from sediment samples across spatial and temporal scales. Rambo also plans to work with JGI virus researchers and harness the IMG/VR database.
“The SCGSR award will further my goal of resolving the poorly-understood viral pressures on carbon cycling dynamics at the terrestrial-marine interface, which at a larger scale may be applicable towards carbon, and especially methane, budgets in the face of climate change-induced shifts in coastal vegetation,” said Rambo. “This outstanding collaborative opportunity with JGI’s experts in computational biology and microbial ecology will allow me to acquire vital skills and expertise, as well as gain invaluable career-guiding experience working at a DOE national laboratory.”
As part of his project, Rambo aims to develop the omics methodologies into workflows with the DOE Systems Biology Knowledgebase (KBase), in collaboration with computational biologist Dylan Chivian and other KBase team members at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “Collaborating with the KBase team as a developer will greatly aid the accessibility and reproducibility of my project methods, and I hope that this open-source platform will be utilized by researchers from a variety of disciplines who seek to better understand the ecological importance of virus-microbe interactions,” Rambo added.
Both Kaze and Rambo will start their projects after the JGI and KBase have settled into their new shared home, the Integrative Genomics Building at Berkeley Lab.