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Chemistry professor awarded NSF grant to harness biochemical potential of ocean microorganisms

Dr. Amy Lane and a research student working in a laboratoryDr. Amy Lane, UNF associate professor of chemistry and director for the Advancement of Women in Natural Sciences, has received a $324,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue her work to decipher nature’s methods for creating a group of naturally occurring molecules known as diketopiperazines (DKPs) that offer a variety of potentially useful applications in medicine, agriculture, and other commercial enterprises.

This NSF award will enable Lane and her team of UNF undergraduate chemistry and biology students to continue to uncover new findings about harnessing the biochemical potential of microorganisms from unique environments, including ocean sediments.

“As it turns out, research by my group and others has demonstrated that marine bacteria are actually quite nice treasure troves of new molecules that are different from ones produced by land dwelling organisms,” Lane said. “So we are trying to harness that untapped potential with the discovery of new molecules from the ocean.”

The team will work to decipher the genetic coding that enables microorganisms to produce selected DKPs and will apply this information to develop new ways to produce these valuable molecules from bacteria using environmentally friendly “green” methods.

This research project initially began in fall 2017. In addition to funding the research project, the new NSF award will also support the establishment of UNF’s Creating Leaders in Multidisciplinary Basic Science (CLIMBS) program starting this fall. The program will focus on preparing diverse UNF natural science students for advanced degrees and careers in science through workshops, educational initiatives, mentorship and career preparedness activities.