Graduate Student to Work with Federal Researchers in Pacific Northwest

William G. Rodriguez-Reillo
William G. Rodriguez-Reillo

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program announced recently that William G. Rodriguez-Reillo, a graduate student in organismic and evolutionary biology, will be spending three to 12 months working in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., to conduct part of his doctoral dissertation work. The program support includes travel and a monthly stipend of up to $3,000 for living expenses.

Rodriguez, “At PNNL, I will learn new techniques to integrate genetic data with high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of soil organic matter (SOM). The integration will allow me first to test hypotheses proposed to explain warming-induced SOM decomposition and second to synthesize data into metabolic networks to model warming stress on terrestrial ecosystems. This is key to understand molecular mechanisms driving major ecosystem processes. I am excited for the opportunity to establish new collaborations and resources by working in a national lab. Certainly, this will advance my doctoral dissertation and expand my horizons.”

Rodriguez’s studies take advantage of three long-term soil-warming experiments already in place at Harvard Forest in Petersham, where heating coils similar to those used to keep football and soccer fields from freezing are buried about 4 inches deep in several plots. They keep the soil surface exactly 5 degrees Celsius warmer than the ambient temperature, creating an outdoor laboratory of artificial climate change. The three patches have now been kept warm for 11, 14 and 25 years to provide a timeline of warming experiments.

Rodriguez’s advisor, microbiology professor Jeff Blanchard, says, “This fellowship award acknowledges the technical and research expertise William has developed, his self-motivation and his ability to work in a collaborative environment. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn emerging technologies from top scientists in the field and apply these methods to our warming experiment at Harvard Forest.”

DOE says the 53 new awardees for its second 2016 award cycle come from 45 different universities across the nation and carry out part of their doctoral dissertation/thesis research in 14 DOE national laboratories. Their proposed research projects address scientific challenges central to Office of Science mission areas.

Steve Binkley, acting director DOE’s office of science, says, “The SCGSR program prepares graduate students for science, technology, engineering or mathematics careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission. We are proud of the accomplishments these outstanding students have already made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”