Matt Schrenk, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Ph.D, University of Washington- Oceanography, 2005

B.Sc., University of Wisconsin- Geology & Geophysics, South Asian Studies, 1998

I am an Assistant Professor jointly appointed between the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. Previously, I was an Assistant Professor of Microbiology at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Prior to that I was a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC. I completed my Ph.D. in Oceanography at the University of Washington in 2005, following an undergraduate dual major in Geology & Geophysics and South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin.

   Through these various experiences I have developed a strong interest in combining geological and microbiological perspectives through the emerging field of Geomicrobiology. I have studied all kinds of extremophiles including those that love acid and alkaline solutions, high pressures, and high temperatures. Microbial interactions with the environment in these systems have important influences on geochemical cycles and climate on Earth, as well as contemporary processes related to anthropogenic disturbances. They also impact the potential for life to exist on other planets and moons and the emergence of life on early Earth. We conduct field work in a number of international locales including the middle of the ocean, serpentinites in Costa Rica, California, Newfoundland, and Italy, and volcanoes in Central and South America.

Graduate Students

Osama Alian

Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Osama joined the lab in Fall 2018 and promptly participated in a oceanographic research expedition to the Lost City Hydrothermal Field near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. He is studying the ecology of microbial communities within the walls of carbonate hydrothermal chimneys using observational approaches, coupling microbiology and geochemistry, experimental approaches using gradients in the lab, and modeling approaches incorporating diffusion and reaction. He is passionate about all things Astrobiology!

Heather Miller

Ph.D. Student

Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Heather joined the lab in Fall 2016 where she has been studying the relationship between microbial communities and gas flux from hot springs. She has participated in field expeditions to Alaska and Costa Rica, applying molecular biology methods to water samples from the subsurface biosphere. Her work, along with our colleagues on the Biology Meets Subduction team, has shown the important role of subsurface microbes in suppressing the flux of carbon dioxide from volcanic environments- which ultimately could impact global climate.


Lindsay I. Putman

Ph.D. Candidate

Dual Major

Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Lindsay joined the lab in Fall 2016 following an undergraduate degree in Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan. Her focused upon the integration of molecular sequencing methods with hydrology to understand microbial community dynamics in groundwater ecosystems. Lindsay's work in providing insight into how microbial populations survive and move within rock-hosted subsurface environments.

Maria Berry
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Microbiology & Molecular Genetics B.Sc + M.Sc. program

Maria is a Microbiology major from the Lyman Briggs honors college who has been working in the lab since Fall 2019. She is investigating microbial communities associated with septic field contamination in the Saginaw Bay watershed using metagenomic approaches. Her work is aimed at developing novel tracers that can be used to distinguish septic contamination from other sources.

Vivian Werth
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Vivian is an Environmental Geosciences major conducting an independent study project investigating the subsurface biosphere using samples associated with geological hydrogen exploration. She is using microscopic and molecular approaches to study drill cuttings from an exploration hole that extends 11,000 ft. beneath the land surface in Nebraska.

Lab Alumni
Postdoctoral Researchers
William Brazelton
NASA Astrobiology Institute Postdoctoral Fellow
Currently: Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah
Melitza Crespo-Medina
Deep Carbon Observatory Postdoctoral Fellow
Currently: Investigadora, CECIA, Puerto Rico
Dani Morgan-Smith
C-DEBI Postdoctoral Fellow, 2012-2015
Lauren M. Seyler
DCO Postdoctoral Fellow, 2015-2017
Currently: Assistant Professor, Stockton University
 Graduate Students
Heather Blumenfeld
M.Sc., Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, 2011
East Carolina University
Thesis: Microbial Carbon Assimilation within the Walls of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Chimneys
Crystal George
M.Sc., Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, 2014
East Carolina University
Thesis: Physiological Studies of Alkaliphilic Anaerobic Organotrophs in a Serpentinizing Subsurface Habitat
Alyssa Kloysuntia
M.Sc., Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, 2014
East Carolina University
Thesis: Physiological and Phylogenetic Studies of the Biogeography of Alkaliphilic Heterotrophic Bacteria from Serpentinizing Habitats
Mary C. Sabuda
M.Sc., Environmental Geoscience, 2017
Currently a Ph.D. Candidate at U. of Minnesota
Thesis: Biogeochemistry of Environmental Gradients in Serpentinization-Influenced Groundwater at the Coast Range Ophiolite Microbial Observatory, California
Katrina I. Twing
Ph.D., Microbiology, 2015
Currently: Assistant Professor at Weber State University
Thesis: Microbial Diversity and Metabolic Potential of the Serpentinite Susburface Environment
Quinn Woodruff
M.Sc., Biology, 2010
Thesis: Microbial Diversity and Biogeography in a Serpentinite-Hosted Ecosystem
Chad Barry
Maria Berry
David Chalmers
Kathryn Ford
Lydia Hayes
Dylan Mankel
Miranda Pryde
Jacob Roush
Jordan Salley
Kai Selwa