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Nathaniel Curtis

PhD Student - Biological Oceanography

Jordan Hall 2129


Having grown up on the Space Coast of Florida, my focus has always been on the ocean. I earned my Bachelor’s in both marine science and biochemistry from Jacksonville University (2017).  The interdisciplinary nature of my undergraduate studies and research experiences led me to the field of marine microbial ecology. Presently, I am a member of Dr. Ryan Paerl’s lab here at NC State, where I am pursuing my PhD. I focus on the use of vitamins and how these compounds, specifically vitamin B1, influence microbial communities in the ocean. I address these research questions with a combination of molecular biology, bioinformatics, and traditional microbiology.


MS Biological Oceanography North Carolina State University 2021

BS Marine Science and Biochemistry Jacksonville University 2017

Area(s) of Expertise

Virtually all cells require thiamin (vitamin B1) for core metabolic processes. This vitamin and its precursors exist at picomolar (or smaller) concentrations in the ocean, so it may come as a surprise that so many phytoplankton and bacterioplankton - including important primary producers and prey for higher trophic levels - are B1 auxotrophs. An auxotroph has an incomplete B1 synthesis pathway and accordingly cannot make its own B1 de novo. These auxotrophs instead rely on low concentrations of the vitamin or its precursors to meet their growth demands. I use modern molecular techniques as well as traditional culturing methods in order to assess the costs and benefits of B1 auxotrophy, as well as to uncover potential impacts of B1 availability on microbial community structures, succession, and food webs in the ocean.

Some methods I have used for previous projects include in vivo growth monitoring utilizing fluorescence signals and flow cytometry. I have also used proteomics and bioinformatics to identify responses to various vitamin treatments. Currently, my work combines field data, meta-omics approaches, and bioassays to determine how B1 and its precursors influence microbial community structures in the ocean and estuaries of coastal North Carolina.