Spotlight Series: Andrew R. Babbin

“Spotlight Series” is a group of posts designed to introduce you to the other members of the science team on the research expedition.  Each scientist and his/her research will be featured – I provided the prompts and the scientists added their own information (my comments will be in brackets: [ ]).  Feel free to ask questions about what they are studying and how they became interested in science!

Andrew R. Babbin

Andrew R. Babbin, twin brother extraordinaire, relaxing on the ship

Andrew R. Babbin, twin brother extraordinaire and brilliant scientist

I’m starting the Spotlight Series with my twin brother, Andrew Babbin.  He’s the main reason I was able to join the expedition and I work with him to study nutrients in seawater.

What is your field of study? I consider myself a marine biogeochemist – I study the intersection of marine microorganisms with the chemistry around them; in other words, how (mostly) bacteria respond to and shape the chemical background of the ocean. [He also uses stoichiometry in a lot of his analyses – so he’s proof that people do use it!!]

What information do you hope to find on the expedition? This cruise is a cruise of opportunity for me actually, not directly related to my own research. I am measuring concentrations of different dissolved inorganic nitrogen species – ammonium, nitrite, and nitrate – in the seawater we collect. This is necessary in order to locate certain chemical features that relate back to biology. We also need this information to better inform experiments we will be performing later where we have to add nutrients with the heavier isotope of nitrogen (15 mass) to the samples, but do not want to add a lot compared to the background concentrations. I also hope to find out exactly how my sister handles being at sea for a month. [So far, so good :-)]

How did you become interested in science? Growing up, I always had an innate desire to understand the world around me, but I have to completely credit my parents for exposing me to the natural world – whether the Jersey shore or a museum – and providing an outlet where I could explore Earth’s wonders. This desire only deepened as I grew up and began to understand exactly what a career in science meant. In high school, my math and science teachers were exemplary and I truly began to immerse myself in the scientific world.

Educational background: I graduated undergrad from Columbia University in Earth & Environmental Engineering and Applied Math. I’m now pursuing a Ph.D. at Princeton (and will be done in a few short months!).

Plans for the future: I will be a postdoctoral researcher (fancy terminology for a scientist who recently finished his Ph.D.) at MIT with Dr. Roman Stocker. I will be studying the nuances of how marine microorganisms sense differences in chemical concentrations. I am particularly interested in certain microbial groups that thrive at very, very low (as in zero) dissolved oxygen concentrations. I will be performing experiments to try to understand different phenomena that we see in the low oxygen parts of ocean. We see a variety of features (like maximum peaks in dissolved nitrite and nitrous oxide concentrations) but do not fundamentally understand why they exist. This involves probing the microbial world down to the microscopic scale that these organisms operate on using cool techniques known as microfluidics.

Back to Ms. B:

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about what my brother studies and that his research has inspired some ideas of your own! I will be featuring the other scientists as the voyage continues so you’ll be exposed to lots of different research ideas.

Don’t forget to comment on the posts! You can always use Edmodo to ask a question/comment if you prefer.

Until next time,

Ms. B.

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3 thoughts on “Spotlight Series: Andrew R. Babbin

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