Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Microbial Communities: Research Banner

Microbial Communities Initiative symposium

Beyond the Batch: Understanding the Physical and Biological Structure of Microbial Communities

February 7, 2011
12:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
EMSL Auditorium


Dr. Matthew Fields, Professor of Microbiology, Montana State University, and the Center for Biofilm Engineering and Thermal Biology Institute

Dr. Chongxuan Liu, Chemical & Materials Sciences Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Carolyn Pearce, Chemical & Materials Sciences Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Chemistry, Materials, Environment and Life Sciences Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Dr. Joshua Schimel, Program Chair of Environmental Studies and Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara

Matthew Fields, Montana State University
The Fields laboratory is interested in the interaction between environmental signals that are sensed by cells, populations, and communities to mediate control over physiology and modes of growth. In particular, the lab is interested in how individual cells, as well as different populations, sense environmental changes in response to biotic and abiotic parameters and optimize metabolism accordingly. The lab uses both monocultures and indigenous microbial communities to better understand the interrelationships between genomic content and phenotype, and how these attributes contribute to stress and survival of biological cells in natural and engineered systems that ultimately impact biochemical capacity.

Dr. Fields received a B.S. degree in Biology and Chemistry from Western Kentucky University, and a M.S. degree in Biological Sciences from Mississippi State University. He earned a Ph.D. (2001) from Cornell University in Microbiology with a minor in Biochemistry and Biological Engineering. Dr. Fields was a postdoctoral researcher with the Microbial Genomics and Ecology group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and was a staff scientist at ORNL in the Environmental Sciences Division for approximately 2 years. He was faculty in the Department of Microbiology at Miami University, and is now with the Department of Microbiology at Montana State University where he is also a faculty member in the Center for Biofilm Engineering and Thermal Biology Institute.

To date, Fields has authored or co-authored 47 scientific publications and more than 100 abstracts. His research projects are currently funded through the Department of Energy via the SBR and GTL programs as well as the Department of Defense and private industry. Dr. Fields has served on the editorial board for Applied and Environmental Microbiology since 2006. His areas of expertise are in bacterial physiology, microbial ecology, bacterial genomics, and environmental microbiology.

Chongxuan Liu, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Dr. Liu is a geochemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, focusing on biogeochemical reactions and transport processes in microporous media. His research is to

  1. Understand complex coupling of biogeochemical reactions and diffusion in microenvironments including intra-granular pores, micro-fractures, and grain-coating domains, grain-aggregates, bacterial membranes, extracellular aggregates, and plant root-soil interfaces
  2. Advance reactive transport theories in the microenvironments by linking molecular dynamic diffusion, atomic interactions at solid/aqueous interfaces, and pore-scale and grain-scale transport
  3. Develop numerical approaches for scaling geochemical/biogeochemical reaction rates from the pore to continuum, and from laboratory to field scales.

Carolyn Pearce, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Dr. Pearce is a Staff Scientist in the Geochemistry Group, Chemical and Material Sciences Division at PNNL and an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. Dr. Pearce joined PNNL in 2009 from the University of Manchester where she held a Research Councils UK fellowship to study microbial synthesis of nanominerals using synchrotron-based techniques. Dr. Pearce received her BSc and PhD in Colour and Polymer Chemistry, University of Leeds and completed her postdoctoral research on interactions between microbes and minerals at the University of Manchester. Her research interests include investigating how microbes and Fe(II)-bearing minerals affect reduction and oxidation of key contaminants, including technetium and uranium, in the subsurface at the Hanford nuclear reprocessing site, Washington State, USA.

Dr. Pearce has authored papers in a range of disciplines including geochemistry, mineralogy, biotechnology and nanotechnology, and has been the recipient of a number of peer-reviewed synchrotron beamtime allocations.

Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dr. Pett-Ridge leads the development of NanoSIMS applications in microbial ecology at LLNL, one of only four labs in the world currently using this powerful technology to probe questions of metabolism, biogeochemistry, and biological relationships at the single cell scale. Her primary research interests are using stable isotope tracing and chemical imaging to understand the ecology of microbial communities; microbial foundations of soil carbon stabilization; complex microbial community systems biology, molecular genomics of environmental microbial communities, and advancing methods to link microbial phylogeny to function with both single cell imaging and high-throughput approaches.

In 2008, Pett-Ridge was asked to lead LLNL's DOE Scientifc Focus Area in systems biology and microbial biofuels development. She is a PI and Co-PI of several other DOE, LLNL-LDRD and collaborator-led grants that focus on mechanisms of soil carbon stabilization, microbial rhizosphere interactions, and insect gut communities symbioses. She has chaired several symposia on the developing area of NanoSIMS biology and will host a major international workshop on the topic in the summer of 2011.

Her lab is actively pursuing the use of NanoSIMS imaging to describe cellular localization of metal micro-nutrients and co-factors, and is currently collaborating with researchers at USGS, UCLA, Stanford, and the Bigelow Institute to investigate cellular accumulation of metals under different growth regimes.

Joshua Schimel, University of California - Santa Barbara
Dr. Schimel is the Program Chair of Environmental Studies and Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research sits at the interface of ecosystem and microbial ecology. He is interested in the role of soil microbes in controlling ecosystem scale processes, particularly the linkages between plant and soil processes, and how changes in microbial community structure affects ecosystem-scale dynamics. His work currently focuses on three ecosystems: the Arctic tundra in Alaska, the taiga forest of Alaska, and the California annual grassland-oak savanna.

Microbial Communities

Biological Sciences Division

Fundamental & Computational Sciences

Research Highlights

View All BSD Highlights



1st Quarter


2nd Quarter

1st Quarter


Beyond the Batch: Understanding the Physical and Biological Structure of Microbial Communities
February 7, 2011
12:30 p.m.
EMSL Auditorium

Microbial Communities on YouTube Icon


Initiative Lead

, Lead
Microengineering and Microanalytics

, Lead
Simulation Modeling

, Lead
Extending Genomics & Proteomics to Quantitative Functional Analyses