DURHAM, N.H. Two University of New Hampshire assistant professors have received prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grants. Vaughn Cooper of the department of molecular, cellular and biomedical sciences received $1 million to better understand beneficial mutations in bacteria by engaging high school students in data collection. Christopher White of the mechanical engineering department received $400,000 to research flow dynamics of liquefied biomass.
Cooper's research explores the overarching evolutionary and ecological question of how adaptation proceeds and how new mutations may benefit organisms in their current environments as well as in others. With this CAREER grant, Cooper aims to improve understanding of the relationship between adaptation to one environment and ability to grow in other environments through study of two very different types of bacteria E. coli and Burkholderia -- evolving in laboratory microcosms. While the work has broad implications for the evolution of other species, "studying adaptaion these mutation processes normally takes a long time, which is why we study bacteria," Cooper says.
While they're arguably the most important mutations, these beneficial mutations are rare. "The innovation of our proposal to the NSF is that we came up with a good way to find them that's easy to do," says Cooper. His project will collect many beneficial mutants from bacterial populations and precisely quantify their adaptive value in a single selective environment, then measure the scope of indirect effects of these mutants. Contemporary techniques of molecular genetics and microbiology will be used to characterize the biological networks that link genetics, physiology, and ecology in the evolving populations of bacteria.
Cooper's lab also will enlist high school students from the Seacoast School of Technology in Exeter to gather data and, he hopes, develop an interest i
|Contact: Beth Potier|
University of New Hampshire