Current Research

Mechanisms of Microbial Plastic Biodegradation

As hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste accumulates in the environment, we seek to capitalize on locations where microbes are interacting with plastics to determine and utilize mechanisms of plastic biodegradation, focusing on recalcitrant (e.g. not ester bonded) plastics. While plastic biodegradation is observed, how this process occurs remains unknown. In my doctoral research, I aim to answer the question: What is the reaction cascade of microbial plastic degradation? To accomplish this, I propose three projects that will probe plastic-microbe interactions 1) in situ in a landfill 2) mechanistically with laboratory enrichments and finally 3) by creating a synthetic community.