UNA professor acknowledged for paper on early evolution in photosynthesis

Life Editor Lavette Williams

Eric Becraft, an associate biology professor at the University of North Alabama, is being recognized for a paper he helped write for Nature Communications.

According to nature.com, Nature Communications is an open access journal that publishes high-quality research from all areas of the natural sciences.

Not only does it have the third highest impact factor among multidisciplinary journals, but it also represents important advances of significance to specialists within each field, according timeshighereducation.com.

The paper is titled “Hydrogen-based metabolism as an ancestral trait in lineages sibling to the Cyanobacteria.” In it, Becraft and his team of co-authors discover that the evolution of aerobic respiration was likely linked to the origins of oxygenic Cyanobacteria.

“It always feels good to be recognized for your contributions to science by the university and your peers,” Becraft said. “The paper took around two years for data analysis and writing. My hardest obstacle was classifying these unknown organisms based on their genomic content.”

He said samples were collected from surface ocean waters around the world, then the unknown bacteria had to be identified, classified and metabolically annotated, all of which require considerable amounts of research time.

Although the paper was time-consuming, Becraft learned to never become discouraged as a scientist because failure and rejection are a part of the process.

Instead, he looks at the positive aspects of it and how it can impact the scientific world.

“It could give new insights into the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis in microorganisms, the process which all animal life on Earth depends upon for oxygen production,” Becraft said. “And, working with Jill Banfield at University of California at Berkeley is always an honor, as she is one of the most insightful and active scientists in my field today.”

His interest in Biology has been there for as long as he could remember.

“I have always had an innate curiosity in regards to biology, though my true passion for science didn’t materialize until my junior year of college,” Becraft said. “The knowledge that a million trillion trillion – five to the 30th power – microorganisms live on planet Earth, including in our bodies, and that we only know what about 1 percent of them are doing. This knowledge inspired me to learn how to recognize and better understand the unknown microbial diversity in the world.”