My research interests are in environmental microbiology and focus on beneficial soil bacteria. In one of our projects, we are trying to understand how common soil bacteria cope with heavy metal stress in the environment. Bacteria constantly sense and adapt to their environment by changing their gene expression. Using a mutagenesis approach with a reporter gene transposon, we have identified a variety of genes that play a role in helping the bacteria to tolerate elevated concentrations of heavy metals. Another project analyzes microbial communities that are involved in the bioremediation of an underground petroleum spill at a former refinery site in Michigan. In addition, we are working towards the creation of so-called "biased rhizospheres". In biased rhizospheres, plants will promote the growth of beneficial soil bacteria close to their roots and these teams of plants and bacteria will be useful in improving nitrogen fixation or the bioremediation of hazardous pollutants.