Aaron Perry


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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 78 - Maria Nikulkova, Mysterious Microbiology

Maria Nikulkova discusses the mysteries of microbiology found in soils, in bogs, and in other natural environments. As humanity’s computing and instrumentation capabilities continues to expand in ever-accelerating capacity and complexity, we are on the verge of a scientific revolution. We are at the fore of understanding the hitherto invisible and misunderstood realm of microbiology.

It is an extraordinary moment!

Ms. Nikulkova discusses how bioinformatics, systems modeling, and other computer-driven capabilities are foundational to our exploding knowledge of the microbiome. With a particular focus on Enigma Archaeatis, an entirely separate domain from the better known Eukaryotes and Bacteria, Maria shares how our increasing knowledge is central to understand the complexities of ecological restoration and climate change mitigation. She also mentions “extremophiles” and how creativity furthers scientific understanding. Getting in to the nitty-gritty of gene sequencing and genomic research which is central to her research, she discusses CRISPR (“Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palendromic Repeats). Naturally, our growing capabilities also raise new questions in the realm of bioethics, which Maria emphasizes as remarkably important. She also discusses how science in general, being fact and research based, creates an inclusive community for a diverse array of individuals driven by curiosity and strength in the STEM (“Science Technology, Engineering and Math”) subject areas.

Maria Nikulkova started working in the molecular biology field at the Miller lab at the University of Colorado – Denver as an undergraduate student (receiving a competitive Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) grant to support her work). After earning her B.S. in Biology in 2018 from CU Denver, she started in the CU Denver Biology MS program in Fall 2018. Currently, she is working on assembly, annotation, and interpretation of novel archaeal genomes from freshwater wetlands in the Miller lab, alongside collaborators in the Wrighton lab at Colorado State University. She plans to continue her studies at New York University in the coming years.




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