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Jones Awarded Center for Biofilm Engineering Young Investigator Award

May 24, 2018

Photo Caption:  Future Faculty Fellow A-Andrew Jones in his former lab growing electroactive bacteria in an anaerobic chamber.

ChE & MIE Future Faculty Fellow A-Andrew Jones received a Young Investigator Award from the Montana State University’s Center for Biofilm Engineering for his doctoral work entitled "Shear stress mediates metabolism and growth in electroactive biofilms”. Dr. Jones’ work focused on determining how shear stress independently of nutrient impacts biofilm metabolism and architecture over long periods of time.

While most people think bacteria are free floating in the air or water, they are more commonly found in biofilms: structures made of bacteria, sugars, proteins, and water. Biofilms can be harmful, representing 87% of hospital acquired infections, or useful, being used to reduce the footprint of wastewater treatment plants by over 40%. Originally a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, The MSU Center for Biofilm Engineering has been a world leader in biofilm research for more than 25 years. The mission of the Center for Biofilm Engineering is to advance the basic knowledge, technology, and education required to understand, control and exploit biofilm processes.

Dr. Jones used an electroactive bacterium, Geobacter sulfurreducens, which directly produces measurable current as part of its metabolism that allowed for unprecedented access to bacterial metabolism. His finding that increased shear stress decreases the time to maximum current, and therefore metabolism, has implications for biofilm-based biotechnology like wastewater treatment. Similarly, his finding that maximum metabolism produced under maximal shear happens at the expense of sustained high metabolic rates at long-time scales. This may be used in dynamical systems for biofilm removal from industrial systems. Furthermore, using microscopy, he found that the biofilm’s structure became fixed after long-times regardless of the shear stress or metabolic rate potentially explaining why biofilms have pore-structure with no known uses.

The Young Investigator Award targets postdoctoral researchers and newly hired faculty. Up to two investigators are invited to present research at the meeting in July, receiving an honorarium and complimentary attendance to the meeting. Awardees will be chosen by the CBE Executive Committee based on research quality and relevance of the material to the CBE's mission.

Dr. Jones’ work at Northeastern continues the investigation of stress, particularly nanoparticle stress on bacteria through their life-cycle under Professor and Chair Thomas J Webster in ChE while also working to develop methods for cleaning and operating heavy metal lab-on-chip detectors under Professor Carlos C. Hidrovo-Chavez in MIE.