Research Interests

My interests lie in determining how variation at the molecular level helps to enable organisms to thrive in different environments. What cellular factors establish environmental tolerance ranges and environmental optima? We thus seek to explain how biogeographical patterning is based on physiological, biochemical, and molecular adaptations. Comparative study of protein homologues has shown that very small differences in temperature and hydrostatic pressure are sufficient to favor adaptive changes in protein structure and function. The amount of change in sequence needed to effect these adaptive responses is found to be small, sometimes only a single amino acid substitution, which can affect substrate binding or structural stability. Our work with macromolecules is complemented by the study of how micromolecules, like the low molecular weight organic compounds that serve as osmotic agents, influence the function and stability of proteins. These studies show that adaptation to environment is a cooperative effort between macromolecules and the complex solutions that bathe them.

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology