Minority Researcher, Trained With NABIR Support, Publishes in Key Scientific Journals


One of the Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) Program’s most visible success stories is Dr. James Scott. Scott, an African-American microbiologist, originally worked as an undergraduate technician on a NABIR-funded project with Dr. Kenneth Nealson, then at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Nealson encouraged Scott to continue the project for his PhD thesis. His thesis research, published in the Journal of Bacteriology and the journal Applied Environmental Microbiology, was on the metabolism of a one-carbon compound (formate) by the soil bacterium Shewanella, which displays differing activities in the presence and absence of oxygen (as in subsurface environments). In the absence of oxygen, Shewanella metabolizes, and precipitates uranium or other metals. The organism is now studied by several NABIR researchers and could serve as a basis for bioremediation of soils and sediments at DOE sites contaminated with these materials. Scott’s latest publication, describing formate metabolism and survival by Shewanella at very high pressure or within ice, recently appeared in the highly respected journal Science. The results, widely reported on national news, suggest that Shewanella may play a quantitatively important role in precipitating uranium and other metals in deep soils, sediments, and other geological formations.

Dr. Scott is a highly visible example of DOE’s efforts to expand and diversify the U.S. scientific workforce. BER’s support has been integral to his professional success, and has contributed to NABIR’s success by describing the physiology of an organism that may be critical to the development of bioremediation strategies to immobilize metal and radionuclide contaminants in subsurface environments at DOE sites.