FEMS Microbiology Ecology Poster Prize: Max Showalter

Polar and Alpine Microbiology Conference, September 2017

As a key meeting related to FEMS Microbiology Ecology, and with a Thematic Issue on the way in 2018, the Polar and Alpine Microbiology meeting was the perfect place to celebrate the excellent research currently taking place within the field. Learn more about the winner, Max Showalter, below.


Max Showalter

What is your current position, and how did you get there?

I’m a PhD student at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, studying biological oceanography and astrobiology. I received my bachelors in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue University, where I developed an interest in extremophilic microbes, especially as they related to the possibility of life in space.

From there, I applied to work in the Deming Lab at UW to study polar bacteria and viruses and how they may inform the search for life on icy moons like Enceladus or Europa. I received my MS in Oceanography in 2017 from UW working in the same lab.”

What research did your poster cover?

My poster presented a modeling project looking at how the sea ice environment impacts bacteriophage-host population dynamics. It’s unknown if this indicates high viral production, low viral decay, or some other factor. In order to dissect which factor may be most important in this complex system, I coupled a phage-host population model with existing physical models of sea ice and found that phage adsorption and decay rates most greatly control population.”

What do you hope to focus your research on in the future?

Bacteriophage in cold systems are greatly understudied – something that was evident when trying to get accurate parameters for my model. As I continue my PhD, I hope to focus on improving the sophistication of my model, incorporating new understandings of phage-host dynamics that I derive from experiments with natural sea ice samples.”

Any further comments?

Thanks so much for the recognition of my poster and the opportunity to talk about my research!”

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Many of the most serious human infectious agents are either derived from the wider environment or have environmental reservoirs. In this Thematic Issue from FEMS Microbiology Letters, we explore the underlying biology, transmission cycles and risk factors for a breadth of microbes, presented as a series of original research and mini-reviews.

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