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Dr. Hector H. Hernandez joined the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology as Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering. His research focuses on the studying the role soil microbes play in the global cycling of carbon dioxide (CO2). Soils store a significant pool of CO2. Understanding (1) which specific microbial communities, (2) what metabolic pathways are involved, and (3) how these communities respond over spatial and temporal scales are crucial for the development of management strategies and technologies aimed at the capture and long-term storage of CO2.
Prior to joining the program, Dr. Hernandez was a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He completed his PhD in the Department of Chemistry at MIT. For his graduate work, Hector investigated the redox regulation in Archaea. In particular, he studied the NADPH dependent thioredoxin and thioredoxin reductase system and how this system provides reducing equivalents to ribonucleotide reductase, the enzyme which makes all the building blocks for DNA damage and repair.
Biogeochemistry of carbon sequestration
Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) is currently being implemented as a strategy to mitigate atmospheric emissions of CO2, and help stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. In CCS, carbon dioxide is separated and captured from an industrial process stream, before being compressed and injected deep underground into geological formations (e.g. hydrocarbon or salt-water filled (saline) reservoirs) for storage on time scales of 1,000 years or more. Natural saline formations are biologically active environments that will be profoundly changed by the injection of CO2, potentially affecting both short-term injection operations and long-term storage of CO2. Little is known about how the subsurface microbial ecosystems will affect trapping mechanisms or the operational efficiency of CO2 injection into natural saline formations. We are investigating how geological carbon sequestration affects the subsurface microbiota and the biological processes that mediate potential biogeochemical transformations of subsurface carbon dioxide. We are using cultivation-independent molecular methods to characterize shifts in microbial community structure associated with the passage of a plume of CO2 at a monitoring well during a pilot study of carbon dioxide sequestration in saline reservoir at a depth of 1.5 km.
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