Mak Saito - Spring 2016

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Nitrogen in the middle. Model of the FeMo cofactor of the nitrogen-fixing enzyme nitrogenase (A) before and (B) after the Einsle et al. report (1). This report presents a high-resolution structure of the MoFe protein of nitrogenase, which contains the FeMo cofactor. The new work reveals a previously unrecognized interstitial atom in the FeMo cofactor that may possibly be nitrogen (blue N). Carbon, gray; iron, green; sulfur, yellow; molybdenum, purple; oxygen, red; and nitrogen, blue. (From Smith et al., Science 2002)

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Marine Bioinorganic Chemistry is a field that examines the distribution and processes that affect metals throughout the natural environment. It works on subcellular biochemical levels involving metalloproteins and metal-binding molecules, as well as on geological and physical scales to construct the global biogeochemical cycles of trace metals. This course aims to survey salient research avenues in recent years, as well as to provide opportunities for discussion and exploration. The course will cover major research areas and key chemical and biological principles. The class periods will be a combination of lecture and discussion about trace metal sciences, policy, and societal issues. The course will begin by adding depth to a chemical understanding of complexation chemistry to allow a common basis of knowledge, followed by a survey of relevant topics and incorporating classroom discussions and presentations.

Course Outline

Lecture Topics:

  • Introduction to trace metal biogeochemistry
  • Categories of trace elements
  • Metal speciation and analytical methodologies
  • Specific elemental biogeochemistries (Mn, Al, Pb, Co, Zn, Cd, Cu)
  • Free ion model and algal uptake kinetics
  • Phytoplankton limitation and colimitations
  • Mercury biogeochemistry
  • Iron biogeochemistry (limitation, light colimitation, redox, speciation, uptake mechanism, colloids, and policy)
  • Trace elements and the ancient ocean
  • Vitamins and other co-factors
  • Metalloenzymes and their role in marine biogeochemistry
  • Metal isotope systems applied to modern and ancient environments
  • Use of genomic bioinformatic resources in marine biogeochemistry
  • Proteomics applications to Chemical Oceanography

Discussion Topics

  • Iron fertilization and geoengineering
  • Memes and creativity in science
  • Co-evolution of life and planetary chemistry
  • Industrial ecology and human sustainability

Course Work:

There will be two problem sets, a research paper/proposal (~10 pages), and a 10-15 minute class presentation related to the paper (last 2 classes). Paper topics are up to the students, in communication with the instructor to help point to literature sources. Use readings and discussion for potential ideas. There will also be times set aside for classroom discussions on the readings (labeled for discussion) with participation expected.


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Last updated February 18, 2016
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