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Nathan G

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at University of Washington




I am a microbial physiologist studying how bacteria use Rare Earth Elements (REE) in metabolism. REE are critical metals for modern technology, such as laptops, cell phones, tablets, EVs, and so much more. My work focuses on the intersection between methylotrophy (the ability of microbes to use one-carbon compounds such as methane and methanol as food sources), enzymes that need REEs to function properly, and how microbes use REEs to make a living. In the lab we are using our discoveries to develop new technologies to recycle REEs, help plants grow better, and improve medical imaging. I am passionate about science, microbiology and preparing the next generation of scientific minds through education and outreach. I personally enjoy time outdoors hiking and playing soccer.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Metals for life

If asked about metals important to life, chances are iron and calcium would first come to mind, as they are important parts of our blood and bones. There are many more metals that are needed for essential biological functions, however. In this project you will dive into scientific literature to learn about different life metals, find out what their roles are in biology, and learn what kind of life forms need them. You will also learn about the newest addition to the life metals - the lanthanides. Then you will choose a life metal and review two recent scientific articles involving your metal of choice. Finally, you will generate a finishing, in depth, description of the metal's function in biology. Your creativity is the limit as to how you show the important of metals for life, whether it be a written scientific review, a 3D model, a poem, or an interpretive dance.

Microbial technology in our lives

Fungal leather? Impossible "meat"? Self-healing concrete? You will search media for new, environmentally-conscious products that are reshaping society, but here's the catch - they have to be made by microbes! Find a company/product that catches your imagination, learn how it is impacting its target industry, and uncover the science behind it. You will write a news story, blog post, or review about the company/product describing how it is changing our world through microbes and speculate on the impact you think this technology could have.

Whose leaf is this anyway?

The leaf surface is a challenging, dynamic environment for microscopic life. Nonetheless, these tiny organisms find a way to colonize and thrive on the leaf. In this project you will isolate leaf microbes by making "leaf prints" like those shown above. In the image above, methanol was provided as food and the influence of lanthanum, a lanthanide metal, was tested for its influence on leaf microbes. For your own isolation, you will choose from a variety of media types, each with a different nutrient composition. Once you have isolated bacterial colonies, you will perform 16s amplicon sequencing to identify your isolate(s). Then, you will use available genome databases to compare your isolates to similar microbes and search for functional genes that likely help your isolate(s) colonize and survive on the plant.

Languages I know

Spanish - conversational


Work experience

Michigan State University (2015 - 2020)
University of California-Berkeley (2020 - 2022)
Project Scientist


University of Wisconsin
BS Bachelor of Science (2003)
University of Washington
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (2014)
Microbial one-carbon metabolism

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