Anna Michelle Mangus
Hometown: Glendale, Arizona, United States
Graduation date: Spring 2022
MORE | Spring 2022
Cryogenic Electron Tomography and 3D Reconstructions of the Intracellular Extracellular Nanowire Interface of Geobacter Sulfurreducens
Geobacter sulfurreducens are bacteria that use cellular respiration to naturally convert carbon substrates into harvestable electricity. Important morphological information of two structures involved in this process remains to be elucidated: conductive protein filaments, called microbial nanowires, and intracytoplasmic membranes (ICMs). In this work, cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and confocal microscopy were used to image and model G. sulfurreducens nanowires and ICMs. These images reveal that nanowires appear to extend past the outer membrane and grow preferentially towards the anode, and that ICMs are induced more frequently when G. sulfurreducens is grown with insoluble solid-surface electron acceptors.
Mentor: César Torres
Featured project | Spring 2022
Chemical engineering graduate student Anna Mangus is conducting research in the MORE program to understand how bacteria can convert carbon molecules to electricity with Associate Professor César Torres. Mangus participated in FURI for two semesters as a junior and is now participating in the MORE program while she finishes her graduate studies in the 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program.
How will your research project impact the world?
My current research is focused on studying species of bacteria called geobacter sulfurreducens, which have the natural ability to produce electrical currents. They have filaments called microbial nanowires that conduct electricity to external electron acceptors, such as electrodes. As such, this bacteria is a model organism for technologies like microbial fuel cells and microbial electrochemical cells, which are sustainable ways of producing electricity and high-value chemical products. These microbial nanowires are also widely used and studied in the advancing field of bioelectronics.
Have there been any surprises in your research?
In pursuit of our original research plan, we stumbled across an undocumented structure in the bacteria we work with, so a large part of my research has been dedicated to classifying and studying what this structure is and what function it serves for these bacteria.
As an engineer, I was only ever expecting to work in application-related research, so to end up contributing to the discovery side of research has been what Bob Ross would call a “happy accident.” Trying to learn about something so new that you can’t even come up with a hypothesis for it has been challenging, but more fun and rewarding.
What has been your most memorable experience as a FURI and MORE student?
I had the opportunity to travel to California with my lab group and present a poster at the 2021 North American meeting for the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology. It was the first conference I had ever attended, and it was an incredible amount of fun learning about the current research in my field and meeting the students and faculty who authored the research so fundamental to my field. I left the conference feeling really inspired to try new things and make progress in my own research.
How do you see this experience helping you with your advanced degree and career goals?
FURI and MORE allowed me to try things I had never done before, and I ended up falling in love with research. They also gave me the opportunity to work on multiple research projects, which has allowed me to understand where my personal research interests lie. The skills I gained and the mentorship I received during these times are what make me confident and excited to continue my graduate education to get my doctorate and hopefully become a professor someday.
Why should other students get involved in FURI and MORE?
Participating in these programs is a great way to see if research is something that you enjoy. The process of writing a proposal and presenting your research at the end of the semester allows you to practice skills that are fundamental to working in research. It also allows you to build strong connections with faculty that you may not have worked with otherwise.
If I could go back and give myself advice when I first started doing undergraduate research through FURI, I would tell myself that you get out of it what you put into it, and trust in your ideas and capabilities. If research is something you find yourself interested in, I would recommend taking advantage of as many opportunities like MORE and FURI as you can. The requirements of these programs truly help you prepare for entering the research world, so putting in the work to learn as much as you can about scientific communication, experimental design, literature review and more during this time will be very helpful in the long run.
Further, entering the world of research can be daunting as an undergraduate, but trust that the ideas and theories about your project that you come up with are worthy of being voiced and explored. Every faculty member I’ve met at ASU has been more than willing to lend a hand, offer an opinion or direct me to someone who can help with anything I have wanted to accomplish.