Emory Physics News

Emory physicists to study airborne microbes, funded by $1.2 million Keck Award

The Keck Foundation awarded Emory physicists Minsu Kim (left) and Justin Burton $1.2 million to explore how microbes adapt to living in the Earth’s atmosphere and the broader role that these organisms may play in the planet’s ecosystem. Microbes have an incredible ability to thrive in different environments. Extensive research has shown the vital roles that these invisible organisms play in the ecosystems of marine and soil environments. But the atmosphere is another important habitat. Growing evidence shows that microbes in the Earth’s atmosphere can affect rainfall, land fertilization and food production. Little is known, however, about how these tiny life forms adapt to living in air and the even broader role that airborne microbes may play in the planet’s ecosystem. The W.M. Keck Foundation awarded Emory University physicists Justin Burton and Minsu Kim to explore these mysteries. In a collaboration with the University of Oregon, the researchers will use the funds to pioneer new methods for mechanistic studies of the physiology, metabolism, ecology and evolution of airborne microbes. The Emory project will create new tools to conduct never-before-done studies of how microbes adapt to living in air. Read more about this award:


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