Aaron Nguyen ’22


Electrical Engineering

Project Title

Evaluating the Role of Unusual Nitrogen-Input Enzymes in the Global Nitrogen Cycle*

Presentation Link

View Aaron's Presentation

I studied the effects of temperature and the partial pressure of hydrogen on various mutants of bacterial enzymes known as nitrogenase, which present a possible alternative to industrial fertilizers. Nitrogenase in agricultural soils would facilitate the microbial conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia — which is metabolized by most organisms — through a process known as nitrogen fixation. While previous studies have shown the effects of temperature and partial pressures of hydrogen on purified nitrogenase, I wanted to see if the same effects hold true inside the cell. I used an anaerobic bacteria known as Rhodopseudomonas palustris that contains various types of nitrogenase. The previously reported results held true within the cell, with increased temperatures resulting in a highter growth rate and increased partial pressures of hydrogen leading to a lower growth rate of the bacteria. I gained insight on how academic research works and, although I am interested in electrical engineering, the experience was invaluable and solidified my desire to work toward a cleaner Earth.

* This internship is connected to the PEI Climate and Energy Grand Challenges project, “Controls on Alternative N2 Fixation.”

Internship Year


Project Category

Water and Health


Zhang Lab, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University - Princeton, New Jersey


Xinning Zhang, Assistant Professor of Geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute; Katja Luxem, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences