UAS Chemist Konrad Meister lands NSF Award to Study How Fungi Make Ice
The National Science Foundation has awarded UAS professor Dr. Konrad Meister with a three-year, $243,688 award to study the structure and working mechanisms of fungal ice nucleators.
Date of Press Release: June 18, 2021
The National Science Foundation has awarded UAS professor Dr. Konrad Meister with a three-year, $243,688 award to study the structure and working mechanisms of fungal ice nucleators. A collaborative effort, the project will combine expertise in advanced spectroscopic methods at Baylor University with those of ice-binding biomolecules at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). The goal is to improve the understanding of how fungi make ice and interact with the biosphere and the atmosphere.
Pure water does not spontaneously freeze at 0°C and can be supercooled to temperatures as low as -40°C before ice forms. Cold-adapted fungi enable the formation of ice at much warmer temperatures, a process known as heterogeneous ice nucleation. Heterogeneous ice nucleation plays central roles in cold tolerance, as some organisms survive low temperatures by avoiding ice nucleation, and in the atmosphere, where variations in temperature of ice formation can influence weather and climate. Why some fungi are so good in making ice remains unknown and the recent NSF award will allow Dr. Meister to unravel how nature’s optimal ice-nucleating materials work.
Meister notes: “Fungi's ability to nucleate ice is fascinating and I'm intrigued by the idea that they actively mould their environment and might act as rainmakers. I'm also happy that the funds enable exciting research and exchange opportunities for our UAS students.”
Dr. Konrad Meister joined the faculty at UAS in January of 2020. His research aims to understand the molecular strategies of freeze-avoiding and freeze-tolerant organisms and how one can use nature's tricks in biomedical applications. Meister received BS and MS degrees in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. Afterwards he performed postdoctoral work at AMOLF, the Netherlands and then led a research lab at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Germany.
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