Proposal Number: 1611916
This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2016, Broadening Participation of Groups Under-represented in Biology. The fellowship supports a research and training plan for the Fellow that will increase the participation of groups under-represented in biology. The title of the research plan for this fellowship to Zaid McKie-Krisberg is "A Systems Approach to Investigations of Light Independent C4 Type Carbon Fixation in Green Algae." The host institutions for this fellowship are City University of New York-Brooklyn College and Rutgers University-Newark. The sponsoring scientists are Drs. Juergen Polle and Adam Kustka.
The Fellow?s research investigates whether green algae use the C4 pathway for photosynthesis. Understanding the genetic and molecular underpinnings of carbon (C) fixation by photosynthesis is important because C fixation by algae provides organic energy for nearly all aquatic food webs, and because algae photosynthesis can be an important source of biofuels. While there is some evidence that single-celled green algae use the C4 pathway (based on enzyme activity and the synthesis of organic C compounds), complete C4 photosynthetic pathways have yet to be confirmed in these algae, which are the closest relatives of vascular plants. In vascular plants, C4 pathways are associated with either a distinct multicellular anatomy, or with a diurnal rhythm. C4 pathways have been suggested to function as carbon concentrating mechanisms, contributing to pre-fixation of inorganic carbon. However, in green algae, the products formed in these pathways can also be involved in synthesis of metabolites such as amino acids. This suggests that C4 activity in green algae could be both 1) a mechanism to facilitate carbon availability for fixation, and 2) a connection between carbon and nitrogen metabolism. The Fellow is exploring the existence of C4 pathway activity and cellular organization in several species of green algae, using a comparative approach that integrates genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, together with metabolic tracking experiments and molecular studies.
The Fellow is being trained in systems biology, computational biology, and applied phycology, while advancing his development towards an independent academic career by publishing scientific articles, learning new techniques, and mentoring/training students. In an effort to broaden participation in science, the Fellow is drawing on the diverse populations at both host institutions to provide training and instruction in cutting edge biological research to students in under-represented groups. The Fellow is training undergraduate researchers, who are receiving training in bioinformatics theory and techniques, including biocuration and metabolic mapping. In addition, the Fellow is creating a Systems Biology teaching module, which is being made available for public use by educators. In addition, the Fellow?s mentoring and training efforts are preparing undergraduate minority students for successful careers in STEM research.