James K. McCarthy, featured first author of Nitrate Reductase Knockout Uncouples Nitrate Transport from Nitrate Assimilation and Drives Repartitioning of Carbon Flux in a Model Pennate Diatom
Current Position: Research Fellow, J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, CA.
Education: Ph. D. Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.; BA English, Union College, Schenectady, NY.
Non-scientific Interests: Cooking, growing vegetables, composting, swimming in the ocean, photography, Irish trad. music.
During my previous career as a cameraman, producer and writer for documentaries and educational films and videos, I realized that, rather than reporting on ideas and events, I wanted to actively participate in efforts to discover and characterize how the natural world functions. With a strong interest in alternative fuels, I landed in Doug Eveleigh’s lab at Rutgers, studying directed evolution of hyperthermophilic cellulases for my Ph.D. (2002). The opportunity to pursue molecular biological basis of marine bacterial manganese (Mn) oxidation led me to a post doc with Brad Tebo at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In the Tebo lab, I made the knockout of the first Mn-oxidase (there are two) in Pseudomonas putida GB-1; learned the basics of comparative genomics, identifying of genes unique to Mn-oxidation in two of six sequenced Pseudomonas strains; and participated in the manual annotation of Aurantimonas sp. SI85-9A1, a marine alpha-proteobacterium and Mn-oxidizer. It turned out—I liked analyzing sequencing data. In 2009, I joined Andy Allen’s lab at the J. Craig Venter Institute to help define nitrogen metabolism in diatoms. Using metatranscriptomics, model-organism—Phaeodactylum tricornutum—transcriptomics, molecular biology, biochemistry and microscopy, I’ve focused on nitrate assimilation. The recent results observed in our nitrate reductase knockout strain suggests a mechanism by which P. tricornutum, and perhaps other diatoms, store nitrate in their vacuoles, and provides many new ideas for further characterization of diatom metabolism.