December 8, 2016

Impact story: Energy Research Seed Fund paves way for NSF grant

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Assistant Professor of Biology Amy Schmid's research aims to determine the underlying mechanisms by which regulatory factors in micro-organisms enable survival during environmental stress. What might be some energy applications for this research? Amy began exploring this intriguing question in a series of conversations with Mike Lynch, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

In 2015, the Energy Research Seed Fund awarded Amy and Mike $40,000 to pursue a joint project on "Mining Metabolic Biodiversity for Bioenergy Applications."

Fast-forward to June 2016, when Amy launched a new project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $750,000 over three years. The project, "Modeling the function and evolution of metabolic networks across hypersaline-adapted Archaea," seeks fundamental understanding of how microorganisms gather nutrients and remain viable while facing the most extreme conditions on Earth. Amy's research could enable numerous industrial applications, such as improved techniques for bioenergy production.

According to Amy, the Energy Research Seed Fund helped pave the way for her successful NSF proposal by enabling her collaboration with Mike. This is just the kind of interdisciplinary energy research that the Energy Initiative seeks to cultivate, positioning Duke to benefit from a big return on a modest investment. 

Learn more about the Energy Research Seed Fund.