Dr. Mike Aitken

Dr. Mike Aitken

Dr. Joaquim Vila, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Barcelona, has received a prestigious Marie Curie Research Fellowship from the European Commission to support two years of research in the Aitken lab.

Dr. Vila will be working with Dr. Aitken to study the biodegradation of PAHs and other polycyclic aromatic compounds that are typically found in PAH-contaminated soil, but about which relatively little is known. His research focuses on creosote-contaminated soil, extending the Aitken lab’s current work on coal tar-contaminated soils at MGP sites to a new contaminant matrix.

Conducting research at UNC will allow Dr. Vila to identify the most important PAH-degrading bacteria by capitalize on the Aitken lab’s unique collection of 13C-labeled PAHs to conduct stable-isotope probing analysis as well as the UNC campus infrastructure for high-throughput genomic, metagenomic and transcriptomic sequencing. In turn, he will bring an expertise to the Aitken lab in analytical chemistry and elucidating microbial pathways and transformation products using a technique called compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA).

This collaboration will extend to two European researchers who are recognized experts in PAH biodegradation: Dr. Vila’s current postdoctoral advisor, Dr. Magdalena Grifoll at the University of Barcelona who is an expert on bacterial PAH metabolism and Dr. Jose Julio Ortega-Calvo of CSIC, an expert on PAH bioavailability.

As part of the fellowship, Dr. Vila will follow his two years in the Aitken lab with one year of research at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) in Seville, Spain.

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