A question & answer session to get to know GG Scholar John Joyce, a 1st year graduate student in the Microbiology Program.

What aspect of genetics and/or genomics most interests you?

I am most interested in genetic engineering and transgenic organisms, particularly in the fields of applied microbiology. 

What (or Who) influenced you to go into your field of study?

I think Dr. Stefanie Chen influenced me the most to study bacteria and showed me how genetics could be tied to applied microbiology. However, the “what” may be an easier answer. Human-caused pollution, whether it is plastic waste or toxic chemicals, adversely affects all life on the planet. Through microbial genetic engineering and applied microbiology, I can do something to protect the environment.

Who or what do you hope benefits from your research?

I hope that I can help the environment and the animals within it by relieving human-caused contamination through the process of bioremediation.

How can your research be used to inform decision makers (e.g. policy makers, resource managers, health practitioners, K12 educators, etc etc)?

The threat of hazardous waste and toxic chemicals released into the environment not only threaten the organisms that live there, but humans as well. I hope that the research I perform will provide policy makers and industry leaders with the ability to reduce the hazardous byproducts of producing various materials through bioremediation and applied microbiology.

What do you think is the most pressing issue or problem in your field of study?

Today, the issue with the most coverage are PFAS “forever” chemicals that may lead to cancer in humans. However, there are many pollutants, like last-generation refrigerants for example, that significantly contribute to global warming. Uncovering a microbial method of degrading these chemicals before they leave their site of introduction would be extremely useful.

How do you expect the GG Scholars program to impact your work?

I think some of the course content and training will allow me to dive deeper into the molecular basis of applied microbiology. The data science course will give me an understanding of a programming tool that I am not familiar with but know is becoming invaluable to modern scientists. I also think the connections I will build with peers and faculty will allow me to collaborate and expand my research.

How would you describe your research interests to a 3rd grader?

I like to take tiny little bacteria that you can’t even see with your eyes and use some cool science techniques to edit their DNA and make them do things they couldn’t before, like eat dangerous chemical waste or remove bad things from your drinking water.

What’s your dream job?

Someday, I would like to be a research scientist at my own non-profit biotechnology company developing bioremediation tools and useful microbial products that can benefit society and the environment.