Elton Tran ’22


Molecular Biology

Project Title

Microbial Control of Nitrous Oxide Consumption in the Ocean*

I worked to isolate microbial DNA from Pacific Ocean water samples in order to analyze distributions of nitrous oxide-consuming microbes at different ocean depths. Nitrous oxide is a particularly strong greenhouse gas and a significant fraction of atmospheric nitrous oxide is produced in the ocean by denitrifying microbes. However, the populations of nitrous oxide-producing microbes coexist with nitrous oxide-consuming microbes at different ocean depths. My work focused on isolating two genes thought to be responsible, respectively, for the microbial conversion of nitrous oxide to nitrogen gas and of nitrogen gas to ammonia in nitrous oxide-consuming microbes. By working firsthand in the Ward lab and learning to carry out lab procedures such as polymerase chain reaction, cloning, and DNA purification, I gained a greater understanding of how deliberate research can be used to make progress toward a larger goal. Eventually, this research will identify the populations of microbes that play a major role in naturally removing nitrous oxide and in discovering the most efficient natural mechanism for nitrous oxide degradation.

* This internship is connected to the PEI Water and the Environment Grand Challenges project, “Control of Microbial Nitrous Oxide Production in Coastal Waters.”

Internship Year


Project Category

Climate Change and Environmental Science


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


Bess Ward, William J. Sinclair Professor of Geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute; Amal Jayakumar, Senior Professional Specialist, Geosciences