Adapting the graduate research experience amidst a global pandemic
Nick Reichart, a graduate student in Roland Hatzenpichler’s lab at Montana State University, was only a few months into his year-long graduate research project at the JGI when the pandemic interrupted his plans. Reichart was working with Tanja Woyke and Bob Bowers in the Single Cells group through the DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program, which awards graduate students the opportunity to pursue part of their thesis research at one of the DOE national laboratories or national user facilities.
When Berkeley Lab suspended the Lab’s research and operations in March 2020, Reichart and Woyke rapidly adjusted. “Although it did disrupt the research that I had planned, we were able to move some of the goals around and focus more on the computational work,” he said. “In the summer, when we were allowed to safely return to the lab, I was able to go back to finish some of the DNA and RNA extraction I had planned in my proposal.”
The first paper from Reichart’s SCGSR research experience recently appeared in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. The work surveys publicly available metagenomes from around the world, highlighting hot springs as a potential source of heat-tolerant enzymes to break down biomass for the production of sustainable biofuels.
“Although the shelter in place kind of disrupted the research,” Reichart said, “I think it still gave me the opportunity to really dive deeper into the computational work, which is part of the reason I came to the JGI, to build on those skills that I had not previously learned.”
Reichart expects to graduate from Montana State University in July 2021. After that, he’ll start postdoctoral work with Aaron Wright’s group at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
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. Their proposed research projects address scientific challenges central to Office of Science mission areas across the six Office of Science research programs.
Publication: Reichart NJ et al. High Potential for Biomass-Degrading Enzymes Revealed by Hot Spring Metagenomics. Front. Microbiol. 21 April 2021. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2021.668238
byline: Massie S. Ballon