Devaki Bhaya wants to understand how environmental stressors, such as light, nutrients, and viral attacks are sensed by and affect photosynthetic microorganisms. She is also interested in understanding the mechanisms behind microorganism movements, and how individuals in groups communicate, evolve, share resources. To these ends, she focuses on one-celled, aquatic cyanobacteria, in the lab with model organisms and with organisms in naturally occurring communities.

 Phototaxis is the ability of organisms to move directionally in response to a light source.  Many cyanobacteria exhibit phototaxis, both towards and away from light. The ability to move into optimal light for photosynthesis is likely to be an advantage. Bhaya is  particularly interested in how cells perceive light of different wavelengths; the photoreceptors involved, and how the molecular signals are transmitted into actions.

Science knows almost nothing about how microbial worlds communicate, evolve, share resources, or interact with other organisms. Bhaya’s recent research on speciation and evolution of thermophilic cyanobacteria in the microbial mats of hot springs in Yellowstone National Park has set the stage for a move into challenging new territory. Using pioneering methods, her group compiled full genome sequences of two dominant cyanobacteria (Synechococcus sp.) and a green, non-sulfur photosynthetic bacterium Roseiflexus sp. Her work represents the first glimpse into the complexity of microbial population to reveal a complex, integrated regulatory network. For more information see, https://dpb.carnegiescience.edu/labs/bhaya-lab

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The photosynthetic alga Chlamydomonas. Purchased from Shutterstock.
May 6, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— A team led by current and former Carnegie plant biologists has undertaken the largest ever functional genomic study of a photosynthetic organism. Their work, published in Nature Genetics, could inform strategies for improving agricultural yields and mitigating climate change.

Photosynthesis is the biochemical process by which plants, algae, and certain bacteria are able to convert the Sun’s energy into chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates.

“It is the foundation upon which life as we know it is able to exist,” said Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman, a co-author on the paper. “It makes our atmosphere oxygen rich while

3D projection of an Arabidopsis root tip. Credit: Dave Ehrhardt
May 3, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— In many ways, plants form the cornerstone of our society. They are key to the health of many ecosystems, underpin our entire food chain, provide us with fuel and medicine, and mitigate the effects of carbon pollution in our atmosphere. Despite this, there is still so much about the basic biology of plants that is not understood.

This is why Carnegie’s Sue Rhee and Selena Rice, along with colleagues from Carnegie and 30 more institutions, are heading up the Plant Cell Atlas project. The initiative brought together more than 800 experts to develop a community resource that will comprehensively describe plant cell types, the molecules they manufacture

Algae growing in a body of water, purchased from Shutterstock.
April 27, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— Algae have a superpower that helps them grow quickly and efficiently. New work led by Carnegie’s Adrien Burlacot lays the groundwork for transferring this ability to agricultural crops, which could help feed more people and fight climate change. Their findings are published in Nature.

Plant cells, algae, and certain bacteria are capable of converting the Sun’s energy into chemical energy using a series of biochemical reactions called photosynthesis. This process made Earth’s atmosphere oxygen rich, allowing animal life to arise and thrive, and underpins our entire food chain.

Photosynthesis takes place in two stages. In the first,

Plant Physiology cover art
February 7, 2022

Palo Alto, CA— Plant science will be crucial for solving many of society’s most-pressing challenges—including climate change, food security, and sustainable energy—but what are the outstanding mysteries that plant researchers need to solve to pave the way for this progress?

A new special-focus issue of Plant Physiology edited by Carnegie’s Sue Rhee, Julia Bailey-Serres of UC Riverside, Kenneth Birnbaum of NYU, and Marisa Otegui of the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an overview how one initiative—the Plant Cell Atlas—is approaching these fundamental research inquiries and advancing the field.

The project started as a

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Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now that many genomes from algae to mosses and trees are publicly available, this information can be mined using bioinformatics to build models to understand gene function and ultimately for designing plants for a wide spectrum of applications.

 Carnegie researchers have pioneered a genome-wide gene association network Aranet that can assign functions

Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also

Anne Pommier's research is dedicated to understanding how terrestrial planets work, especially the role of silicate and metallic melts in planetary interiors, from the scale of volcanic magma reservoirs to core-scale and planetary-scale processes.

She joined Carnegie in July 2021 from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she investigated the evolution and structure of planetary interiors, including our own Earth and its Moon, as well as Mars, Mercury, and the moon Ganymede.

Pommier’s experimental petrology and mineral physics work are an excellent addition to Carnegie’s longstanding leadership in lab-based mimicry of the

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation