Research in our lab is focused on understanding the biosynthesis and physiological function of lipid biomarkers, primarily hopanoids and sterols, in modern bacteria. Organic geochemists have long had an interest in these lipids as they are readily preserved in ancient rocks and have the potential to function as molecular signatures of ancient microbial life. Yet very little is known about the evolutionary history and function of these molecules in extant bacteria making it difficult to properly interpret their occurrence in the rock record. As microbiologist trained in molecular biology we bring a unique perspective to this geologically relevant problem and hope our research will provide some insight into what these biomarkers are telling us!
Our group is part of the Geobiology & Paleontology research community in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford providing an invigorating environment for geobiology research. We belong to the Earth System Science Department and are currently recruiting potential graduate students to join our group (ESS admissions information). If you are interested in joining, please email Paula Welander (welander at stanford dot edu).