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Stephany Soledad Chacon
Graduate Research Fellow
Department of Crop and Soil Science
My research interests include the interactions between extracellular enzymes and mineral surfaces in the soil environment. Extracellular enzymes are key players in any decomposition of organic matter, and their functionality in the soil environment needs to be understood in order to incorporate microbial physiology into improved future models of soil carbon turnover. These proteins are highly versatile and can adsorb onto mineral surfaces present in the soil environment, affecting the enzymatic function of the protein by changing its structure. Yet some of these soil minerals surfaces can also act as catalysts, which could produce permanent modifications or fragmentation of the enzymes. My first objective is to establish the molecular range of modifications to the protein integrity and the protein structure as it becomes associated with a mineral surface. The second objective in my research would be to determine how the specific mechanisms of protein fragmentation and disintegration, such as oxidation and hydrolysis, depend on the mineral surface type.
Reardon, P., S. Chacon, E. Walter, M. Bowden, N. Washton, and M. Kleber. 2016. Abiotic Protein Fragmentation by Manganese Oxide: Implications for a Mechanism to Supply Soil Biota with Oligopeptides. Environ Sci Technol 50(7): 3486–3493.
Allison S.D, Chacon S.S., German D.P., 2014. Substrate concentration constraints on microbial decomposition. Soil Biology and Biochemistry (accepted)
German, D.P., Chacon S.S., Allison, S.D., (2011) Substrate concentration and enzyme allocation can affect rates of microbial decomposition. Ecology 92: 1471-1480
Awards and Honors
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research Award Oct 2015-May 2015
Department of Crop and Soil Science Merit Fellowship Award June 2012-June2013
Diversity Advancement Pipeline Fellowship April 2011-June 2012