Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
What’s the goal of your Ph.D. research?
I am working to develop an economical, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for agriculture. Right now the nitrogen that fertilizers emit is broken down very quickly and the plants don’t take all of it up. A large amount is lost to leaching. It’s costly financially and also means excess nitrogen pollutes waterways.
Why did you pick this field of study?
I was really drawn to the idea of solving pressing problems and coming up with economical approaches that can be adopted readlily. Nitrogen run-off is a major issue in agriculture. Only 30 percent of the nitrogen applied on farmland is taken up by crops. The other 70 percent pollutes rivers, streams and accumulates in the Gulf of Mexico, driving toxic algal blooms.
What has surprised you most so far during your studies?
I enjoy conducting research at many scales and in a variety of settings. On any day, I might work at the lab bench in the morning and the greenhouse in the afternoon. Working in multiple fields and leveraging an array of technologies — including x-ray crystallography, organic synthesis, microbiology and soil science — keep things interesting.
Outside of courses and research, what else keeps you busy on campus?
Social events, seminars and intramural sports fill up most of my free time. Also, I often attend the monthly after-work seminar known as Bug Club. It’s a chance for microbiologists to get together and learn about ongoing research.
What’s your favorite spot to spend time around campus?
I love stopping by Mim’s just off the St. Paul campus. It’s a great place to get coffee, meet with friends and get some writing in.