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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist elected as Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

Colleen Hansel, associate scientist at WHOI, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology within the American Society of Microbiology (ASM). In this photo, Hansel is measuring the reactive oxygen species superoxide in mangrove waters in Cuba using a handheld sensor (DISCO) developed by a team of scientists and engineers led by Hansel. Photo credit: Colleen Hansel © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Woods Hole, MA – Colleen Hansel, senior scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Sixty-five fellows from around the world, including Hansel, were inducted into the Class of 2022 for their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

“I am deeply honored to be elected an Academy Fellow,” said Hansel. “This recognition would not have been possible without all the students, postdocs, and colleagues that I have worked and collaborated with over the years and whose contributions were critical to our scientific research and discoveries. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to dedicate my career to understanding the biogeochemical processes that control the health of our world and its inhabitants.”

Her lab’s work centers on various life forms, spanning from bacteria to corals, explores a variety of chemical elements and investigates diverse geochemical niches including coral reefs and the rock varnish on Mars.

Hansel’s integrative and innovative work has led to impactful discoveries that have shaped future exploration within the field of geomicrobiology and ecological chemistry. For example, her work brought to light the intimate coupling of microbiological and geochemical processes in the cycling and mineralization of elements, like iron and manganese, within various ecosystems. Over the years, her research has revealed the concept that biogeochemical cycles are oftentimes controlled by short-lived, reactive chemicals that are notoriously difficult to measure.

Her research has impacted future research directions and approaches within the scientific community by highlighting the need to look for indirect enzymatic and metabolic impacts on biogeochemical processes. Hansel’s work has unveiled the importance of hidden reactions that underscore and control larger biogeochemical cycles. She has dedicated her program to the scientific and professional development of the next generation of scientists over the years, including numerous undergraduate and graduate students, visiting scholars, and postdoctoral scientists.

Hansel earned her PhD in Biogeochemistry from Stanford University in 2004. She went on to become an assistant professor at Harvard University in 2007 before joining WHOI as an associate scientist in 2012. Looking back on her career thus far, she feels honored to be a female leader in a STEM field.

“As a first-generation college graduate, a mother of three children, and one of only four tenured women in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at WHOI, I hope I can serve as a role model for younger generations. I am humbled to have also served on numerous panels over the years to share my experiences and advice in navigating a career in science as a woman,” said Hansel.

The ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications, and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources and provides a network for scientists in academia, industry, and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.




About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in basic and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. For more information, please visit