Who's Who? Who's New?

Helen Hill for EAPS News
April 30, 2017

A warm EAPS welcome to visiting scientist Wenlian Xiao, new Summons Lab Assistant Alexandra Bryan, and Babbin Group postdoc Einat Segev, as well as a warm welcome back to Alejandra Quintanilla Terminel who joins William Durham as a postdoc. Plus: Congratulations to Xiaolei Liu (Summons Group) on his recent promotion from Postdoc to Research Scientist.

Wenlian Xiao, who comes from the Southwest Petroleum University in Sichuan province, China, is interested in rock physics and its application in petroleum engineering. He will spend the year working with Yves Bernabe in the Earth Resources laboratory looking at the effect of stress on rock permeability. When he's not hard at work looking at rocks, Xiao says he usually likes reading but for now is spending a lot of his spare time "learning abut English and American culture."


Alexandra Bryan is a rising senior at the University of Connecticut majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology (and also English as a double major.) Bryan joins Summons Lab Postdoctoral fellow Dr Ainara Sistiaga with whom she is analyzing lipid biomarkers of two million year old sediments from the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania in order to better understand past environments and the first members of our genus: "Essentially, how the climate impacted human origins, which likely has a baring on how humans impact climate." With a long commute from the South Shore she says she spends a large chunk of each day reading, however she's also a runner, having run the 2013 Boston Marathon as a junior in high school and is currently training/planning on running the 2018 Boston Marathon.


Einat Segev, an expert in algal-bacterial interactions, joins the Babbin Group in EAPS from the Kolter Lab at Harvard Medical School. She says "microbial interactions are key in many global biogeochemical cycles. One remarkable example is dense algal blooms in the ocean that harbor a rich bacterial population. The microbial community in these blooms shares a complex network of relations between microbes, and with the environment. To elucidate some of this complexity I study a model system of algal-bacterial interactions. I am interested in achieving a comprehensive view of how the microorganisms affect each other’s physiology and how their interaction influences biomarkers that are preserved in the geological record. My research employs experimental approaches from both microbiology and Earth sciences."


Alejandra Quintanilla Terminel PhD '14 returns to EAPS from the University of Minnesota where she has been working as a postdoctoral researcher. Her work with thesis advisor Prof Brian Evans demonstrated a new technique to track rock deformation at a micrometer scale and was reported in the American Geophysical Union EOS in the fall of 2016. Terminel joins Senior Research Scientist William Durham a specialist in laboratory experimentation to measure the strength of geological and planetary materials at high pressures and extreme temperatures.


And finally, comgratulations to Xiaolei Liu on his promotion from postdoc to Research Scientist. Liu is a geobiologist interested in developing efficient analytical protocols to detect, identify and quantify lipid biomarkers in various samples, investigating the biological sources, transportation and preservation of lipids in sediment records, and understanding the biosynthetic pathways and biological function of lipids.

Liu is currently working on two projects with Roger Summons. One, a collaboration with colleagues at Stanford University, is using a genetic approach combined with lipids analysis to investigate archaeal tetraether lipids synthesis. He explains "Archaea has been recognized as a separated life domain for several decades, but the synthetic pathway of archaeal lipids is not fully understood. The goal of this project is to identify unknown enzymes catalyzing some key reactions of the archaeal tetraether lipid synthesis." The second project, funded by ExxonMobil, is to study the fate and degradation of organic matter in marine sediment.

Liu holds a PhD (2011) degree from the University of Bremen, Germany, in 2011. He joined the Summons Lab at MIT in 2014. Liu who attends and serves in the City Outreach Ministry of the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Boston, says, when he isn't hard at work doing geobiology, he spends much of his spare time involved with church activities.

Postdocs who left in February/ March 2017:
Heather Throckmorton (Postdoctoral Associate, Summons Group)