Who: Dr. Lisa Gieg
Associate Professor and Associate Head - Undergraduate
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary
Dr. Lisa Gieg is an Associate Professor and Associate Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary with research focusing on how microorganisms metabolize various compounds like hydrocarbons in association with the energy industry. By studying hydrocarbon biodegradation her lab can apply their knowledge and solutions to important environmental problems. Her other topics of interest include Environmental Microbiology, Petroleum Microbiology, Anaerobic Hydrocarbon Metabolism, Bioremediation, Microbial Corrosion, Enhanced Energy Recovery, Sulfate Reduction, and Methanogenesis
Dr. Lisa Gieg’s interest in microbiology initially sparked during her undergraduate degree by a friend who had previously taken a course on it. In an effort to find something new, Gieg took the same class, kickstarting her current research interests.
“It wasn't really until we covered how useful microbes are in wastewater treatment, that I was like, wow, I had no idea how important microbes were in environmental and industrial processes.”
From there, Gieg knew she wanted to go into the field of environmental sciences and microbiology. Her PhD research focused on hydrocarbon biodegradation and since then, she says that genomics has come a long way to uncover more data, and specifically reveal how microbes can influence a system.
“[Genomics is] a really good tool that we now use. It has developed over the last 20 years or so, in order to figure out what type of microbes are in a system and microbes might be doing there…I'm interested in genomics, because it can tell you a lot of information that you can't get using classical cell culture methods.”
Now Gieg shows these same methods to students, and even though her heart lies in research she says being able to combine teaching and her research has been extremely fulfilling.
“I think the two really come together when you're training graduate students and students in research, right? It's really bringing them together. It's very rewarding that you've actually taught them something and something that they can use and go out in the world and talk about.”
Gieg’s current Genome Canada/Genome Alberta Large Scale Applied Research Project looks at how corrosion in the oil and gas industry can better predict failures due to Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion and how to decrease their occurrences.
For Albertans this means a better economy, as well as less environmental contamination from the oil and gas industry.
“We've been able to communicate in many different conferences and workshops to a lot of the people working in the energy industry in Alberta. And I think we've made them a lot more aware that microbes need to be looked at and need to be considered. I feel like we've at least increased the knowledge about microbes in the industry.”
Gieg says that next her research is finding ways to transfer her knowledge from the oil and gas industry to other sectors by applying the techniques, genomic sampling approaches, and chemical evaluations they have used and developed.
Through this Gieg says they will be able to see microbial corrosion in sectors such as water treatment and wind systems.
“There's a lot of windmills in oceans in Europe, for example, and there is a belief that there isn’t any microbial corrosion. But that's really not true, because they've got pilings that go into marine sediments. So, there's going to be lots of microbes there that can be degrading some of the infrastructure.”
By studying Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion in different systems, Gieg says this will allow for solutions to prevent the issue across all systems that may experience it.
Words of Advice
As Associate Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary, Gieg has spent a lot of time teaching and interacting with students and young researchers and says the most important thing is learning from others and combining this knowledge to work together.
“Try to talk to as many people as possible. Really branch out, even if you're not comfortable. Trying to forge a lot of collaborations as early on in your career as you can, I think is really, important. I think science can't really be done in silos anymore.”
For Gieg this means seeing the bigger picture within research and teaching her students that there is more to discover than they may have thought.
“The students that are attracted to the research that we do in my lab are generally interested in the bioremediation aspects. It's much more than that. We can better understand other aspects of microbes, and including corrosion, including all the negative things that they can do in this particular sector. I usually tell them that we're trying to understand microbes’ kind of through the whole oil production process. It's about more than just bioremediation.”
Working with Genome Alberta
With a focus on providing solutions for the oil and gas industry in Alberta, Gieg says that funding and supporting Albertan researchers who are familiar with the industry might be the key to creating a safer and more productive energy sector.
“Genome Alberta has been always very encouraging of people within Alberta, [pushing] different universities to apply for these grants. I have always felt that there's been really strong support, through the grant writing process, helping with budgeting, guiding us through how to do the reporting.”
Gieg says that by understanding how the microbes work, her research will help to reduce oil spills, extend the productive life of petroleum resources, and lead to safer and more secure hydrocarbon energy resources.
To learn more about Gieg’s Genome Canada Large Scale Applied Research Project and various other work visit Gieg Lab