I am a postdoctoral research associate in François Morel's trace metal research group in the Geosciences department at Princeton University. I obtained a B.S. in Biological & Environmental Engineering from Cornell University in 2004 and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science & Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2010. At Caltech, my research touched on the subjects of microbial ecology, symbiosis and its evolution, genetic signatures of trace metals, and the biological basis for hydrogen isotope fractionation.

My specific scientific pursuits have evolved over time but at a broad scale they are all motivated by my fascination with the interplay between microbiology and the physical environment on both short (transcriptional) and long (evolutionary) timescales.   The challenges associated with comparing studies at vastly different timescales have sparked my more recent interest in understanding the relationships between biological and isotopic datasets.

In the Morel lab (http://www.princeton.edu/morel/), these broader scientific interests have led me to become fascinated with trace metals and their impacts on Nfixation by diverse bacteria (http://www.princeton.edu/morel/research/nitrogen/).  I am currently working on methods to differentiate between molybdenum, vanadium, and iron types of nitrogenases using pure culture experiments. Doing so will help us understand the functional roles that “alternative” nitrogenases play in nature and, at a broader scale, how trace metals impact the nitrogen cycle.
Contact Information:
Princeton University, Department of Geosciences, M32 Guyot Hall, Princeton NJ 08544

Phone:  (609) 258-7438
E-mail:   xinningz@princeton.edu