Department of Biology

Faculty Research Topics

Dr. Snezna Rogelj - Booster Shots for Old Antibiotics

Antibiotics have been saving lives for the past 60 years, but their widespread use has resulted in evolution of highly drug-resistant bacteria. Multi-drug resistant bacteria are now a global threat as fatality rates in some cases approach 50%. For example, about 30,000 people a year in the US die from infections with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) while MRSA hospitalization stays double.

Dr. Snezna Rogelj , Chemistry research professor Liliya Frolova and their team at New Mexico Tech invented a set of drugs that re-invigorate standard antibiotics. Their drugs restore the activity of seven diverse classes of antibiotics against a wide variety of drug-resistant and drug-sensitive bacteria, including MRSA, VRE and CRE. In combination, such drug-resistant bacteria are once again susceptible to low doses of well tested, clinically proven and widely prescribed antibiotics.

Dr. Benjamin Duval - Climate Change Hits Belowground

Heavy traffic and smoke billowing from factories is what most people associate with carbon gases and climate change, but soils hold more carbon than all plant life on Earth.

NMT's Dr. Ben Duval is hoping to understand how plant roots and microbes in the soil help store that carbon belowground. Along with graduate students, Duval is studying what triggers native New Mexican pinon and juniper trees to make seeds in our dry ecosystems, a process that requires plants to put some of their carbon into roots.

Soil bacteria and fungi chemically change the carbon, and play an important role in keeping it in the ground. Duval is also working on a Department of Energy funded project that will measure how much carbon gets into the soil from crop roots, and if the amount of carbon that stays belowground depends on a farmer's decisions about how and when to use fertilizer and irrigation.

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Dr. Tom Kieft - Illuminating Lampenflora

New Mexico Tech microbiologist Dr. Tom Kieft, his graduate students, and staff from the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) have begun a research project to help the National Park Service solve a problem at Carlsbad Cavern. Artificial lightning, which is essential for visitors to enjoy the natural wonders of the cave, has the unintended consequence of promoting the growth of algae and cyanobacteria, termed "lampenflora."

The Park Service has recently installed new LED lights to save energy and to lessen the algal problem by using wavelengths of light that are less favorable to algae. Working under a grant from the Park Service, Kieft is monitoring the formation of photosynthetic biofilms for two years at multiple sites in the famous Big Room at the Cavern. They are also using high-throughput DNA sequencing to thoroughly characterize the microbes within the biofilms. Information gained through this study should help the Park Service to preserve the beautiful cavern features in a pristine state.


Dr. Linda DeVeaux

The two main areas of research in the DeVeaux lab are the study of genetic mechanisms that allow microbial survival under extreme conditions, such as high radiation, and the potential pathogenicity of microbial communities in surface water.

Faculty Research