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Career Spotlight: Microbiologist

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Aindrila Mukhopadhyay is a microbiologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where she investigates the most effective ways to use microbes to convert plants into biofuels. Mukhopadhyay leads a multidisciplinary team studying stress response in bacteria. Her work ranges from hands-on research to grant writing. As a student Mukhopadhyay was always passionate about science, and she went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry. Every day she celebrates “small victories” at work and enjoys improving biofuels that will power the cars of today and tomorrow.

This video is part of a five-part educational series on Careers in Renewable Energy.

Pre-viewing Questions

  • What problems related to renewable energy do you think a microbiologist might work on?
  • What tools do you think a microbiologist uses? What skills might be important in this job?

Focus Questions for Viewing

  • Why does Aindrila Mukhopadhyay say that biofuels research is important?
  • What are biofuels?
  • What is Mukhopadhyay’s research group investigating?
  • What does she spend most of her time doing?
  • Who collaborates with her?
  • What sciences are important in Mukhopadhyay's background?
  • What does she like most about her job?
  • What skills does a microbiologist need or use on the job?
  • What personal characteristics does Mukhopadhyay think are a good fit for this career?

Post-viewing Questions

  • What aspects of this career are most interesting to you?
  • What questions do you still have?

Extension Activity

Have your students create their own renewable energy career spotlight video or narrated slideshow! Research local companies, colleges, and universities for people working in the field who students can contact for an interview. A worksheet with tips for planning interviews and information about creating narrated slideshows and videos can be found in the Media-Making Toolkit for Science Education.

Links to Learn More

  • Explore Bioenergy Technology Careers, U.S. Department of Energy website — Find information on the kinds of jobs available in the biofuels energy industry, classes and training available, and workforce needs.
  • Biotech Careers: Biofuels, Bio-Link website — Explore careers in the biofuels industry. Find information on various job tasks, salaries, education requirements, and more. Hear from professionals in the field through short videos and interviews.
  • Biofuels: Beyond Ethanol, QUEST video — Learn how plants’ sugars are turned into fuels and meet scientists investigating new ways to convert what we grow into what makes us go.
  • Energy 101: Biofuels, U.S. Department of Energy video — Find out about the benefits of biofuels and the basics of how biomass is converted into biofuels.
  • Biomass Resources of the United States, National Renewable Energy Laboratory map — This map displays the biomass resources currently available by county in the United States.

NGSS Correlations

  • Performance Expectation: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios. HS-ESS3-2
  • Disciplinary Core Idea: All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks, as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. HS-ESS3.A: Natural Resources
  • Science and Engineering Practices: Asking questions and defining problems, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data
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Category: Biology, Education, Energy

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Andrea Aust

About the Author ()

Andrea is the Science Education Manager for KQED. She joined KQED in 2007 to coordinate education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Between working on Ocean Adventures and joining the QUEST team, she developed the educational resources for the 4-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Before arriving at KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area.