Isabel Baker

Isabel Baker

Graduate Student
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The evolution of life on Earth is a planetary process. I find it amazing that life has been able to colonize almost every possible environment on Earth, no matter how uninhabitable some places may seem. During my undergraduate career at New York University, I studied the genetic regulation of animal physiology and development using a combination of experimental and computational tools. Now, I am excited to combine these tools with a biogeochemical approach to get a holistic view of how planetary and biological processes work together in the evolution of maintenance of life.

I am specifically interested in the role of oxygen in these processes. At both the cellular level and the organismic, oxygen diffusion into biological tissues is surprisingly not dependent on oxygen’s ability to enter the system, but rather much more contingent on the geometry of the system it enters. A widespread way of overcoming this limitation is the use of oxygen-binding proteins to transport oxygen across distances that diffusion alone cannot reach. I am especially interested in this phenomenon in the animal and microbial organisms that live in and around hydrothermal vents, as many of these organisms demonstrate highly derived respiratory pigments to accommodate exposure to toxic substances (like sulfide) in addition to oxygen. In addition to these proteins, it is still unclear to what degree abiotic elements--like reduced iron--also compete for oxygen in these vent settings.  As a graduate student in the Girguis Lab, I am working to characterize respiratory pigments and their binding kinetics in situ, in order to glean a better understanding of this fascinating biogeochemical system.

Contact Information

16 Divinity Avenue 
Biological Laboratories Building, 3102 
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: (617) 495-9266

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