Are the microbes in our homes alive, or are they dead? If they are alive, what are they doing? We plan to answer these questions during my MoBE Postdoctoral Fellowship, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Bacteria in house dust can originate from places such as the outdoors or from the bodies of humans. When this bacteria deposits in house dust, does it die, or does it remain alive and active? If it remains active, does it interact with other components of house dust? Phthalate esters are endocrine-disrupting compounds commonly found in house dust in high concentrations, and they can affect human health. Could active bacteria degrade these compounds?
This interdisciplinary research will help us understand both human exposure to phthalate esters in house dust and how the indoor microbiome interacts with indoor chemicals. The topic advances current research in the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Microbiology of the Built Environment program by addressing microbial function, and by integrating building chemistry with the indoor microbiome.
I am thrilled to be awarded a MoBE Postdoctoral Fellowship, and I look forward to beginning this research next summer. The proposed project allows me to integrate my chemical engineering undergraduate work with my PhD research in microbial ecology. I also look forward to learning from the expertise of Jordan Peccia and Charlie Weschler.