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Release: April 3, 2002

Engineer receives grant to study life in extreme environments

Tonya Peeples, assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering, has been awarded a one-year, $29,984 grant by the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC).

Peeples' research, "A Molecular, Biochemical and Biophysical Study on Piezophilic Bacterial Adaptation to the Deep-Sea High Pressure Environment: Astrobiological Implications," will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jiasong Fang, assistant professor of geological and atmospheric services at Iowa State University and principal investigator on the project. Dr. David S. McKay of the NASA Astrobiology Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, Galveston, Texas will also collaborate on the project. Peeples' study is designed to develop a better understanding of how microbes adapt to cold high-pressure systems similar to environments that may be found in space.

She notes that her work may also lead to a better understanding of conventional life systems and environments. "The more we understand about life in extreme environments, the more we are able to understand about biological systems in our daily lives," she says.

The ISGC promotes education, research, and outreach in aeronautics and space related fields and the ISGC funds students, faculty, and researchers at the UI.

Peeples, who came to the UI in 1995, is a researcher in the field of organisms that thrive in extreme environments. Her present research interests include extremophile biocatalysis and bioremediation. She earned her bachelor's degree in 1988 from North Carolina State University and her doctorate in 1995 from John Hopkins University.