The Center for Environmental BioInorganic Chemistry (CEBIC) at Princeton University, directed by Dr. Francois M. M. Morel, supports an interdisciplinary research program on trace metals in the environment as well as a wide range of educational activities, including summer workshops for K-12 teachers, public lectures, conferences, and a web site. CEBIC is supported as an Environmental Molecular Science Institute (EMSI) and jointly funded by the NSF Division of Chemistry and MPS Office of Multidisciplinary Activities and by the Chemical Sciences Division of the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Department of Energy.
Metalloenzymes affect the behavior of trace metals that are essential for the proper functioning of ecosystems but are also pervasive contaminants emitted by many industries. CEBIC will investigate a number of natural metalloenzymes and metal-binding compounds that influence the behavior of iron in the global carbon cycle. Interdisciplinary teams of CEBIC participants will study intracellular and extracellular binding of metals and their uptake by aquatic microbes, the role of metalloenzymes in the microbial uptake of inorganic carbon and in the respiration of organic carbon, and the role of enzymes in the use and loss of nitrogen, a key limiting element in marine waters. Results of interconnecting laboratory, field, and modeling studies will be incorporated into an overall model of metal dynamics and carbon cycling. The Institute is expected to have a major impact on applying bioinorganic chemistry methods to the environment and on building a knowledge base for development of new approaches to bioremediation of trace metals.
The twenty-three member team of investigators includes ten faculty from four Princeton departments, three from Rutgers University, four from the University of California (Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Diego), one from McGill (Canada), plus four researchers from Exxon Research and Engineering Co. and one from Brookhaven National Laboratory. Approximately 5 postdoctoral fellows, 11 graduate students, and 5 undergraduates will participate each year.