Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Joseph Maa Rose Hills

Investigating mechanisms of nutrient release by phage lysis

Bacteria live in complex and diverse communities ranging from marine environments and soils to the human gut. Improving our understanding of bacterial communities is dependent on deepening our knowledge of how interactions between species affect community function and structure. In one specific interaction, phages participate in these bacterial communities by lysing members and releasing nutrients to the environment. Previous work has explored nutrient sharing interactions on larger scales and research suggests that within marine communities, in algal and phytoplankton populations, viral-mediated cell lysis is responsible for the majority of nutrient turnover.
However, although bacteriophages have been an ubiquitous tool in molecular biology for targeting bacteria and delivering DNA to cells of interest, few studies have looked at a specific mechanism by which nutrient cycling occurs by phage lysis. The Taga lab has developed a simple, genetically tractable E. coli co-culture which was engineered to reciprocally exchange methionine and vitamin B12. I will be using multiple well-characterized phages to examine how viral-mediated lysis in a co-culture of mutually obligate bacteria affects consortium stability and nutrient sharing.

Message To Sponsor

The SURF experience has been a wonderful, once-of-a-lifetime opportunity generously provided for by donors that has given me insight into the world of biological research. I am heavily considering a research-oriented career in the future and it has helped me consolidate my personal interest in research. For me, research is a crucible of intellectual hurdles and challenges, and the opportunity to experience this was contingent on the donation by this fellowship this summer. I appreciate the support and look forward to pursuing a lifelong career in research that has started here, with the SURF research program.
Profile image of Joseph Maa
Major: Microbial Biology
Mentor: Gordon Pherribo
Sponsor: Rose Hills Independent
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