4545A Thomas Hall
Campus Box 7615
Michael R. Hyman
My research activities fall into three distinct but related areas. First, I have a long-standing interest in the biochemistry and physiology of soil nitrifying bacteria. These unusual organisms are responsible for initiating the oxidation of ammonia within the nitrogen cycle. This activity is important in wastewater treatment processes and in determining the environmental effects of agricultural fertilizer use. My most recent studies have focused on the regulation of the ammonia-oxidizing activity of these organisms.
My second area of research focuses on the process of microbial cometabolism. This activity underlies many of the aerobic processes involved in the bioremediation of recalcitrant compounds such as chlorinated solvents. My research in this area involves studies of a variety of organisms including ammonia-, propane-, propylene-, and toluene-oxidizing microorganisms, and the overall goal of this work is to understand the enzymatic basis and the physiological consequences of this activity. I currently have projects that are investigating (1) the enzymes involved in the degradation of a range of alkyl and aromatic ethers; (2) the sites and mode of action of toxic intermediates generated during chlorinated solvent degradation; and (3) the physiological and enzymatic diversity involved in gasoline oxygenate degradation.
My most recent area of research has been in the characterization of filamentous fungi grown on gaseous hydrocarbons. These fascinating organisms are widely distributed in the environment and yet remain largely unstudied. Recently, we have demonstrated some unusual activities of these organisms, including their ability to grow on diethyl ether and to aerobically and anaerobically transform halogenated methanes. My current research focusses on both the potential uses of these organisms in environmental biotechnology and more fundamental aspects of their biochemistry and molecular biology.
Mike Hyman was born in Abingdon, England. He attended various schools in England and Europe and eventually entered the undergraduate botany program at University College, London. He suffered through botany for three years until he took an advanced plant physiology course. This course involved purifying plant photosystems and analyzing them using EPR spectroscopy. This course was the end of the line for botany and he realized at that point that biochemistry was the place to be. He graduated with his B.Sc. in 1980 and took a year off to travel around the world. In 1981 he began graduate studies in the Biochemistry Department at Bristol University, in England. Although he intended to work on bacterial photosynthesis he eventually completed his Ph.D. in 1985 after having studied the biodegradative capabilities of the soil nitrifying bacterium Nitrosomonas europaea. This project led to an intense interest in gas-utilizing enzymes and gaseous inhibitors and to a post-doctoral position at the University of California, Riverside where he studied inhibitors of hydrogenases and nitrogenase. Similar studies were also conducted during research visits to labs at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and the University of Georgia (Athens). In 1990, Mike moved from sunny Southern California to wetter climes and continued his post-doctoral studies in the Laboratory for Nitrogen Fixation Research at Oregon State University. His research returned to investigations of the regulation and biodegradative capabilities of the ammonia-oxidizing enzyme in Nitrosomonas. At this time he became involved in several bioremediation-based studies funded through the Western Region Hazardous Substances Research Center, a joint program involving both Oregon State University and Stanford University. After several years at Oregon State University he established his own research program as a non-tenure track assistant research professor. In 1998 he joined the Department of Microbiology at North Carolina State University as a tenure track assistant professor. His research continues to focus on biodegradative mechanisms and the role of cometabolism in the attenuation of pollutant compounds.