The Geophysical Laboratory seeks a highly qualified applicant for a Postdoctoral Research Associate position with expertise in geomicrobiology. The successful candidate will work under the supervision of Robert Hazen and with members of the newly announced NASA Astrobiology Institute ENIGMA team (Evolution of Nanomachines In Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors) led by Paul Falkowski at Rutgers University. The candidate will employ large data resources in metagenomics, protein structures, geochemistry, and mineralogy to explore how proteins and their expressed functions coevolved with the geosphere through geological time. We propose to carry out data-driven abductive studies of microbial and mineral evolution that document the changes in Earth’s mineral diversity and distribution through deep-time, focusing on mineral interactions with the biosphere. Mineralogical data (e.g., mineral composition, solubility, and age) will be incorporated into geochemical models to constrain the concentration of metals over geologic time and metal bioavailability during Archean and Proterozoic eons. We will then use the availability of redox-active transition metals to date specific positions in the protein evolution trees. Employing large meta-omics and geochemical datasets of modern environments, we will test if metal concentrations are reliable markers for the occurrence of protein cofactors, and thus the validity of using metal bioavailability to constrain a protein evolution timeline. Finally, we will explore if the co-evolution of minerals and proteins resulted in specific suites of minerals that may represent fossil “geobiosignatures” of life. We hypothesize that mineral diversification on Earth was a consequence, direct or indirect, of the biosphere. We hope that this work will allow us to distinguish key differences in mineral diversity and distribution on terrestrial planets and moons, and reveal if key minerals are required for life to proliferate.
For more information and instructions on how to apply, see the full job posting here.