University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Eric Kees

Thesis Advisor: Jeff Gralnick

Year entered: 2013

Degrees received:
B.S., University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, 2012

Honors and Awards:

  • UMII/MnDRIVE PhD Graduate Assistantship Program 2016


Shewanella oneidensis is a member of the dissimilatory metal reducing bacteria (DMRB), a highly diverse group of bacteria able to use a variety of soluble and insoluble terminal electron acceptors for respiration. S. oneidensis is one of the best studied organisms to date as a model for DMRB, with variety of biotechnological applications, including microbial fuel cells and bioremediation of toxic metal pollution. My project utilizes high‐throughput transposon screening  (Tn-seq) to understand changes in S. oneidensis metabolism when a source of energy is introduced into the organism. The specific protein that S. oneidensis has been engineered to produce in this case is proteorhodopsin, a light-driven proton motive force generating pump used by many marine planktonic bacteria to survive in a steady state when nutrients are scarce. When introduced into S. oneidensis, proteorhodopsin has no discernable effect on growth but enigmatically enables survival under electron acceptor limitation, a condition which normally leads to lysis and a massive loss in viability immediately following growth. Furthermore, proteorhodopsin greatly increases rates of respiration and carbon source consumption when cultures are grown on an electrode in a bioelectric cell. By studying how S. oneidensis has incorporated this foreign energy source into its metabolism and for survival under challenging conditions, we can hope to better devise and optimize metabolic pathways of interest to synthetic biology and biotechnological applications.