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Dianne Newman explores how microbes affect the structure of the rocks in which they grow, specifically how they use minerals like arsenic and iron in their metabolism. It's an area of research that is yielding new insight into the earliest forms of life while offering a framework for studying the phenomenon of bacterial biofilms.
She studies how anaerobic bacteria survived millions of years ago, before the atmosphere contained oxygen. These bacteria, in essence, "breathed" iron, and Newman focuses on how they used it in the electron transfer process that was fundamental for their metabolism.
Newman received a B.A in German studies from Stanford University, and a Ph.D., in Civil and Environmental Engineering, from MIT. She has been a David and Lucile Packard Fellow in Science and Engineering, and won the Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research.
From Rocks to Genes and Back: Stories about the Evolution of Photosynthesis
as author at MIT World Series: Earth System Revolutions - Key Turning Points in the History of Our Planet,