PhD Research - Zoe Welch

BA Anthropology and Environmental Studies, The College of William and Mary

Through her research, Zoe Welch seeks to facilitiate an understanding of how nanomaterials, as an emerging class of pollutants, interact with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (diazotrophs) in agriculturally relevant settings. Soil diazotrophs naturally produce bioavailable nitrogen, which is crucial for crop growth and health, and thus have great implications for global food stability. Research shows that diazotrophs may be especially vulnerable to damage caused by some nanomaterials; this is especially troubling considering that soil systems are predicted to preferentially concentrate nanomaterials relative to air or water systems. One of Zoe's main goals is to construct an experimental setup that enables predictive toxicological modeling in relation to bacterial nitrogen fixation in soil systems. Such models will provide insight into the relationships among nanomaterial toxicity, bacterial metabolism, and nitrogen cycling at multiple ecosystem scales. To that end, Zoe is using strains of agriculturally relevant diazotrophs, as well as nanomaterials that have high probabilities of entering agricultural settings, such as ceria and copper-based nanoparticles.

Year Admitted: 2012
Research Areas: Environmental microbiology, nitrogen cycling, nanotechnology, toxicology
Faculty Advisor: Patricia Holden

Office/Lab: Bren Hall 3520
Phone: 805-893-4369

Curriculum Vitae
Holden Lab


"Embryological Staging of the Zebra Finch, Taeniopygia guttata" Jessica R. Murray, Claire W. Varian-Ramos, Zoe S. Welch, Margaret S. Saha*. Journal of Morphology Volume 274, Issue 10, pages 1090-1110, October 2013. Article first published online: 27 JUN 2013. DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20165

Contribution to "Engineered Nanoparticles in the Environment" chapter in Wiley-IUPAC textbook manuscript (2012)

Fellowship Awards

UCSB Graduate Researcher Fellowship (2012 Fall Quarter)