This story was written and published by the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.
Kirsten Hofmockel, associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology and lead scientist for integrative research at EMSL, was one of 49 scientists selected by the Department of Energy’s, or DOE’s, Office of Science to receive significant funding for research as part of DOE’s Early Career Research Program. The effort, now in its seventh year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.
“We invest in promising young researchers early in their careers to support lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system,” said Cherry Murray, director of DOE’s Office of Science. “We are proud of the accomplishments these young scientists already have made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”
Hofmockel's research project is “Molecular Interactions of the Plant‐Soil‐Microbe Continuum of Bioenergy Ecosystems,” and was selected by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research. Hofmockel will study the science around bioenergy crops – crops like switchgrass and corn that are grown as a potential source of energy. She will do experiments both in her laboratory and in experimental plots at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center looking at microbial activity in the soil in which bioenergy crops are grown. Her project will look at how crop selection and soil properties influence soil micro-organisms, which play a huge role in the fate of carbon in soil. She will study what those microbes are doing to transform carbon and other compounds in the soil, the potential of soil to hold vast amounts of carbon, what happens to the microbes once they die, and the effects of growing bioenergy crops on soil and its microbes.
For researchers based at DOE national laboratories, grants will be at least $500,000 per year to cover salary plus research expenses. The research grants are planned for five years.
To be eligible for the DOE award, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory, who received a Ph.D. within the past 10 years.
DOE’s Office of Science selected 49 scientists from across the nation – including 22 from DOE’s national laboratories and 27 from U.S. universities to receive awards. The recipients were selected from a large pool of university- and national laboratory-based applicants.