Kent Laboratory University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
 

LAB ALUMNI

Kent Lab 2009


























Postdoctoral Researcher

Daniel Keymer

Postdoctoral Researcher
Energy Biosciences Institute

Institute for Genomic Biology
2009 - 2011

Ph. D., Environmental Engineering and Science, April 2009
Stanford University

M. S., Environmental Engineering and Science, June 2004
Stanford University

B. S., Civil & Environmental Engineering, December 2002
University of Wisconsin-Madison

PROJECT:
Biofuels and Sustainability

Research Interests:
My current research interests focus on microbial contributions to the sustainability of potential bioenery crops. We are working to identify and characterize N-fixing bacteria that colonize potential bioenergy crops, to determine the magnitude of their contribution to plant N requirements, and to examine the ecological factors that influence the colonization and activity of nitrogen-fixing endophytes. Using this knowledge, we hope to design strategies to promote colonization and activity of nitrogen-fixing endophytes and improve the sustainability of bioenergy crops such as Miscanthus and switchgrass.

Currently: University of Georgia

Graduate Students

Ariane L. Peralta

Ph.D. Student (Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology)
July 2006 - November 2011


Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, November 2011
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

M.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, August 2006
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.S., Honors Biology and Chemistry, May 2003
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

PROJECT:
Illinois Wetland Restoration

Research Interests:
My current research interests specifically focus on soil microbial ecology, environmental quality and geostatistics. I plan to investigate the link between microbial community composition and ecosystem functions through evaluating the role of microbes in maintaining sustainable nutrient conditions for above and belowground communities. In addition, I am interested in assessing current soil sampling protocols and modifying them to be more relevant for microbial analyses. Through proper sampling efforts and application of geospatial statistical design, the appropriate amount of spatial variability can be captured in the soil environment. The importance of appropriate field sampling will lead to results that more accurately reflect environmental conditions.

Currently: USDA Postdoc, Indiana University

Jason Koval

M.S. Student (Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences)
August 2009 - December 2011

M.S., Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, August 2006
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.Sc., Environmental Studies, May 2009
Illinois Wesleyan University

PROJECT:
Wetland Restoration

Research interests: I am interested in studying the effect of watershed restoration efforts on ecological function in a watershed. My research focuses on microbial denitrification in wetlands where legacy sediments are being removed. We are investigating whether the removal of sediments that have been deposited through changes in hydrology will lead to restoration of wetland ecosystem services. This project is a collaboration with the US EPA.

Currently: Argonne National Lab

Yu-rui Chang

M.S. Student (Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences)
August 2007 - August 2010

M.S., Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, November 2009
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.S. (with honors), Marine Biotechnology and Resources, May 2006
National Sun Yat-Sen University, Taiwan

PROJECT:
Aquatic Microbial Ecology

Research Interests:
My research explores the effect of light:phosphorus ratios on bacterial communities associated with periphyton biofilms. Ecological stoichiometry is a subject of much interest, particularly as anthropogenic activities are altering the flow of ecologically important nutrients through the biosphere. This project is examining the response of bacterial community structure to altered periphyton activity resulting from experimental manipulations of light and phosphorus. Microbial populations differ in their functional capabilities, so alterations in community structure will impact microbially-mediated ecosystem processes as well. I am also investigating this possibility by examining differences in bacterial functional gene diversity across the experimental light and phosphorus treatments.

Currently: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Diana Flanagan

M.S. Student (Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences)
July 2006 - January 2009


M.S., Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, January 2009
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.S., Biology and Chemistry, May 2004
Eastern Illinois University

PROJECT:
Illinois Wetland Restoration

Research Interests:

My interests are in water quality issues. I am currently trying to determine what physical, chemical, and biological factors affect the microbial community composition in restored and created wetlands. I am also trying to relate the microbial community composition and the factors listed above to the denitrification activity of these wetlands. This research is important for understanding the wetland function of removing nitrate from the waterways and preventing nitrate pollution of downstream waterways such as the Gulf of Mexico. My goals are to carry out research that will help to improve our natural waterways and to get middle/high school students involved with science and research.

Currently: Illinois American Water

Visiting researchers

Janaina Rigonato

Ph.D. Student (Escola Superior de Agricultura "Luiz de Queiroz", Universidade de Sao Paulo)
Visiting Scholar (University of Illinois)
August 2009 - December 2009

PROJECT:
Mangrove microbial ecology

Research interests: Mangroves are ecosystems with great ecological importance in coastal regions. Cyanobacteria play an important role in mangrove ecosystems through primary production and nitrogen fixation, and also can protect mangroves against contamination by adsorbing heavy metals and degradating xenobiotic compounds. My research aims to evaluate cyanobacterial diversity in Brazilian mangrove ecosystems, and to determine the response of microbial communities (particularly cyanobacteria) to environmental gradients and disturbance.

Caroline Chu

UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine
UIUC Veterinary Medicine Summer Research Program
Summer 2009

PROJECTS:
Microbial Aspects of a Healthy Environment

Research Interests:
Investigation of poultry housing management on microbial community composition and pathogen prevalence. We are collaborating with Angela Green and her research on environmental quality in poultry housing facilities.

 

 

 

 



Kathleen Whelan

UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine
UIUC Veterinary Medicine Summer Research Program
Summer 2010

PROJECTS:
Microbial Aspects of a Healthy Environment

Research Interests: Investigation of poultry housing management on microbial community composition and pathogen prevalence. We are collaborating with Angela Green and her research on environmental quality in poultry housing facilities.






Technician

Robert Lane

B.S., University of Illinois, 2008

PROJECT:
Biofuels and Sustainability









Undergraduate Students

Kevin Hayek


July 2006 - January 2009

NSF REU
ASM Undergraduate Research Fellow
B.S., Honors Integrative Biology
May 2012

PROJECT:
Aquatic Microbial Ecology

Research Interests:
I am interested in studying microbial communities in aquatic ecosystems, and how they interact with other aquatic organisms. I am using DNA "fingerprinting" approaches to examine changes in microbial assemblages in response to sources of organic carbon. I am particularly interested in examining the influence of allochthonous vs autochthonous organic carbon.






Elizabeth Baird

May 2010 - May 2012

B.S., Honors Integrative Biology
May 2012

PROJECT:
Aquatic Microbial Ecology

Research Interests:
I am interested in studying changes in microbial communities over time and space in aquatic ecosystems. I am collecting samples from the epilimnion and hypolimnion of several lakes in northern Wisconsin. DNA "fingerprinting" approaches will be used to compare microbial communities among lakes during the summer months.

Sarah Ludmer

January 2010 - May 2012

NGRREC Intern
B.S., Integrative Biology
May 2012

PROJECTS:
Illinois Wetland Restoration

Research Interests:
I am studying microbial communities and their activities in wetland ecosystems. I am using DNA "fingerprinting" approaches to examine changes in microbial assemblages in response to moisture gradients in restored wetlands. I am also examining microbial nitrogen transformations, and how these are influenced by environmental conditions in restored wetlands.

 

Lauren Endriukaitis

May 2010 - August 2011

B.S., Integrative Biology
May 2011

PROJECTS:
Biofuels and Sustainability

Research Interests:
I am assisting with field and greenhouse experiments to quantify nitrogen fixation in Miscanthus, a potential bioenergy crop under investigation at the University of Illinois. I will also use molecular microbial ecology methods to evaluate the diversity and abundance of bacteria associated with Miscanthus. This work will contribute to efforts toward sustainable production of bioenergy crops here at the University of Illinois.









Eric Johnston

May 2010 - August 2011

NGRREC Intern
B.S., Integrative Biology
August 2006 - present

PROJECTS:
Illinois Wetland Restoration

Research Interests:
I am studying microbial communities and their activities in wetland ecosystems. I am using DNA "fingerprinting" approaches to examine changes in microbial assemblages in response to moisture gradients in restored wetlands. I am also examining microbial nitrogen transformations, and how these are influenced by environmental conditions in restored wetlands.

Following graduation, Eric worked at Argonne National Lab investigating microbial community diversity.

Currently: Georgia Institute of Technology


Neil Gottel

January 2007 - May 2009

ASM Undergraduate Research Fellow
B.S., Honors Integrative Biology
May 2009

PROJECT:
Biofuels and Sustainability

Research Interests:
In my research, I investigate the contribution of nitrogen-fixing endophytic bacteria to bioenergy crops. I have isolated and characterized a number of diazotrophs that live within Miscanthus and switchgrass roots, rhizomes, and stems. I will use molecular microbial ecology methods to evaluate the ecological factors that influence the colonization and activity of these bacterial populations in bioenergy crops. This work will contribute to efforts toward sustainable production of bioenergy crops here at the University of Illinois by improving our understanding of the ecology of microbial communities that may positively contribute to plant nutrition.

Following graduation, Neil worked at Oak Ridge National Lab investigating microbial community diversity.

Currently: University of Texas at Austin


Omar Sinno

May 2007 - May 2009

NSF REU
B.S., Honors Integrative Biology
May 2009

PROJECTS:
Microbial Aspects of a Healthy Environment
Aquatic Food Webs

Research Interests:
I am interested in studying microbial communities in aquatic ecosystems, and how they interact with other aquatic organisms. I am using DNA "fingerprinting" approaches to examine changes in microbial assemblages in response to manipulations of fish diversity. In collaboration with the Shedd Aquarium and Vancouver Aquarium, I am also examining microbial communities in artificial marine habitats with the hope of relating microbial community composition and diversity to marine mammal health. This work will contribute to a better understanding of a "healthy environment".

Currently: Medical College of Wisconsin, UW-Milwaukee


Zach Bayne

May 2007 - May 2008

B.A., Speech and Communication
Environmental Fellow
May 2008

PROJECT:
Microbial Ecology of the Chattooga River

Research Interests:
I am a whitewater rafting guide on the Chattooga River. I am concerned about water quality issues in the lower reaches of this river, and the impacts of water quality for human health, particularly for the recreation workers who guide on this river. For my Environmental Fellows Capstone Project, I am combining molecular microbial ecology methods with sociological research methods. I will examine changes in the microbial community along the length of the Chattooga River, particularly where polluted runoff degrades water quality. I have also surveyed my fellow whitewater rafting guides to determine if exposure to the polluted reaches of the river is correlated with incidences of skin infection. I hope that the results of this work will contribute to grass-roots environmental efforts to improve water quality along the Chattooga River.

Currently: Stetson University Law School


Carolyn Cronin

Janyary 2008 - May 2008

B.S., Integrative Biology
May 2009

PROJECTS:
Microbial Aspects of a Healthy Environment

Research Interests:
I am studying microbial communities that inhabit the air-water interface. The air-water interface is a critical environment for marine mammals, and environmental quality of this zone may have significant impacts for marine mammal health. Sara Paver and I are examining the microbial populations that inhabit the air and water surface, and comparing those to subsurface microbial populations in marine mammal habitats at the Shedd Aquarium. We will determine if marine mammals are encountering different, and potentially harmful organisms at the air-water interface.

 

Lab affiliates

Malia Andrus

Ph.D. student (Agricultural and Biological Engineering)
August 2007 - May 2011

PROJECT:
Investigating the diversity, dynamics and functional redundancy of microbial populations in denitrifying biofilters.



Matt Porter

M.S. student (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
August 2009 - August 2011

PROJECT:
Investigating the diversity, dynamics and functional redundancy of microbial populations in denitrifying biofilters.