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Fourteen Projects Selected for Fiscal Year 2023 FICUS Awards

Scientists to investigate some of the world’s grand challenges and topics: climate change, carbon cycling, biofuels, methane hot spots at landfills, soil viruses, and more

Maegan Murray |
FICUS FY23 Awardees

FY 2023 projects are focused on improving the general understanding of carbon cycling in terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric environments while examining carbon’s contributions and impacts related to climate change. (Illustration by Stephanie King | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Updated 10/11/22

Scientists from 14 research institutions across the world were selected to use state-of-the-art scientific instruments and benefit from specialized scientific expertise as part of the Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science (FICUS) program.

Through the FICUS program, established in 2014 and supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research program, scientists submit proposals as part of a competitive selection process to conduct scientific research on issues that pertain to some of the world’s greatest challenges. As part of the program, those selected use scientific instruments and work with scientific staff at no cost.

Among this year’s projects, scientists aim to grow general understanding of carbon cycling in terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric environments while examining carbon’s contributions and impacts related to climate change. They aim to examine methane hotspots at landfills and investigate soil viruses. They will characterize proteins, develop cellular tools, and use fungi to degrade biomass materials in plants for use in biofuels production. Additionally, these FICUS projects aim to fill gaps and extend knowledge as it applies to cloud formation and life cycles, the water cycle as it pertains to the atmosphere above mountainous terrain, as well as biological aerosol particle emissions from the terrestrial biosphere.

Ten of the selected projects will use capabilities at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI). Some of these projects were awarded access to the Bio-SANS Beamline at the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) through the Center for Structural Molecular Biology (CSMB). Focus areas for FICUS projects conducted with these facilities include:

  • Biofuels, Biomaterials, and Bioproducts
  • Hydro-biogeochemistry
  • Inter-organismal Interactions
  • Novel Applications of Molecular Techniques

The other four selected projects will use capabilities at EMSL and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility. Projects selected focus on the topic area of “Aerosol Processes and Aerosol-Clouds Interactions.”

Projects in collaboration with EMSL and the JGI:

Parched: Quantifying Microbial Ecophysiology and the Fate of Plant Carbon During Soil Dry Down

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Principal investigator: Steve Blazewicz

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Steve Blazewicz

Investigating the Effect of Negative Arm Protein Conformation on the Circadian Post-Transcriptional Regulation of Cellulases

  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Principal investigator: Jennifer Hurley

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Jennifer Hurley

Metabolic Exchange Between Spartina alterniflora and Sulfur chemosymbionts of the plant's Root Microbiome

  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Principal investigator: Joel Kostka

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Joel Kostka

Deploying Advanced Molecular & Cell Free Expression Tools to Accelerate Characterization of Fungal Cellulosomes

  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Principal investigator: Michelle O’Malley

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Michelle O'Malley

Microbial Impacts on Methane Emission Hot Spots from Municipal Landfills

  • University of Waterloo
  • Principal investigator: Laura Hug

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Laura Hug

Histone Methylomics and the Chromatin Landscape of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

  • Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
  • Principal investigator: James Umen

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee James Umen

Linking Soil Microbial Stress Metabolism to Watershed Biogeochemistry Under Climate Change Across Seasons

  • Boston University
  • Principal investigator: Jennifer Bhatnagar

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Jennifer Bhatnagar

Elucidating Temporal-Spatial Patterns in Lignocellulose Degradation by Morphologically Distinct Anaerobe Gut Fungi

  • Scotland’s Rural College
  • Principal investigator: Jolanda van Munster

FY23 FICUS Awardee Jolanda van Munster

Environmental drivers of Inter-Kingdom Metabolic Interaction in Marginal Soil Rhizosphere

  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Principal investigator: William Nelson

FY23 FICUS Awardee William Nelson

Elucidating the Impacts of Viruses on Soil Organic Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agricultural Peat Soils

  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Principal investigator: Paula Dalcin Martins

​​FY 23 FICUS Awardee Paula Dalcin Martins

Projects in collaboration with EMSL and ARM:

Characterization of the Aerobiome During the ARM Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory (SAIL) campaign

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Principal investigator: Maria Zawadowicz

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Maria Zawadowicz


Vertically and Size-Resolved Chemical Speciation of Aqueously Processed Organic Aerosols

  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Principal investigator: Allen Goldstein

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Allen Goldstein

Seasonal Vertical Aerosol Profiling for Aerosol-cloud-precipitation Interactions to Advance Mountainous Hydrological Process Science

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Principal investigator: Allison Aiken

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Allison Aiken

Characterizing Primary Biological Aerosol Particles During Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions Experiment (TRACER)

  • University of Michigan
  • Principal investigator: Allison Steiner

FY 2023 FICUS Awardee Allison Steiner

For more information about EMSL proposal calls, visit