Dr. Frank Stewart, an assistant professor in the School of Biology, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This award provides $1.2 million over five years in support of research and educational activities in Dr. Stewart’s field of marine microbiology. According to NSF, the CAREER Program “offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”
Dr. Stewart’s CAREER research will investigate the microorganisms responsible for key steps of the biological sulfur cycle in marine oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). OMZs and other low-oxygen regions (e.g., dead zones) are likely to expand in response to future climate change. The microbial communities that dominate these unique environments are ecologically diverse and are known to be critical mediators of global cycles, notably the nitrogen cycle. New evidence, including work from Dr. Stewart and his collaborators, has indicated that OMZ microbes (mostly bacteria) are also actively involved in moving sulfur through the marine ecosystem, with potentially links to both the nitrogen and carbon cycles. However, the biogeography, genomic diversity, and metabolic activity of the organisms responsible for these processes remain largely uncharacterized. Dr. Stewart’s research will use a combination of high throughput molecular methods, microbial culturing, and shipboard experiments to shed new light on this important group of marine microorganisms. This research will involve four oceanographic research cruises in both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Stewart’s CAREER project is also devoted to enhancing science education across multiple academic levels. Through a partnership with local K-12 educators and teacher-development experts at Georgia Tech, Dr. Stewart and his lab will implement A Summer Workshop in Marine Science (SWIMS), designed to help train local teachers to merge key topics in marine science with new national standards in science education. Additional science education activities will involve internship opportunities through partnerships with other Atlanta area colleges.