Fall 2013 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University

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James Bruckner, Ph.D.

Marquette University, Ph.D. 2004

 

Jim Bruckner
Dr. Jim Bruckner testing the Hydrothermal Vent Biosampler in Japan

Dr. James (Jim) Bruckner received his doctorate in Microbial Ecology from the Department of Biological Sciences in 2004. He studied under Dr. James Maki with his research focusing on methane-oxidizing bacteria associated with hydrothermal features in Yellowstone Lake. As his project was based in Yellowstone National Park, Jim spent numerous weeks each year of his graduate career collecting samples in the field. While most samples were collecting using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), Jim was able to use his SCUBA diving skills to place instrumentation and hand collect samples at numerous offshore hydrothermal fields. In addition to his field work in Yellowstone, Jim participated in UW-Milwaukee/WATER Institute research cruises on Lake Michigan aboard the R/Vs NEESKAY and LAURENTIAN. In his final year at MU, Jim also served as an Instructor for second semester General Biology.


Jim Bruckner
Diving for a field trial in Iceland

After leaving Marquette, he accepted a joint postdoctoral fellowship between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. Although his initial project at JPL was to characterize microbial communities in water supplies aboard the International Space Station, Jim’s experience with extremophiles and his fieldwork background were quickly put to use on other projects. During his three year postdoc, his research included studies on microbial surface contamination in Spacecraft Assembly Facilities and clean rooms, the survivability of embedded microbes in spacecraft polymers, and the assessment of atmospheric microbes within the Regenerative Enclosed Life Support System Module Simulator (an ISS simulator at the Marshall Space Flight Center). Additionally, Jim helped evaluate prototype life-detection instrumentation including surface samplers, DNA detection systems, and automated DNA extraction technology. He collected air samples from caves in New Mexico, chased high altitude balloons across the California desert, and helped fabricate and test the Hydrothermal Vent Biosampler. Field trials for the HVB occurred off the coast of southern California, at a hydrothermal vent in an Icelandic fjord, and at deep ocean locations (1.2-1.4 km) along the Izu Bonin Arc south of Japan (courtesy of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology).


Jim Bruckner
Collecting air samples at Spider Cave, NM

From JPL, Jim joined the Desert Research Institute (Las Vegas, NV) as a postdoctoral fellow and was later hired as an Assistant Research Scientist. While at DRI, he studied microbial communities in numerous desert ecosystems including the saline and alkaline terminal Walker Lake and deep subsurface environments in Death Valley and at the Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada Test Site). Sites at the NNSS included hot wells drilled into blast cavities formed from underground nuclear tests and vent shafts into sealed device placement tunnels.

A series of seemingly isolated, but ultimately interconnected events would however result in a major change for Jim. A chance meeting at a Las Vegas bar, a road trip to the Pacific NW, a ransom note, and a fortuitous set of emails resulted in the opportunity to establish and run the QA/QC lab for Rogue Ales in Newport, OR. Jim’s love of beer and perhaps more importantly his diverse background made this an easy transition. His new position required an understanding of enzymatic reactions (the mash), chemistry (the brew kettle), and microbial physiologies (fermentation, maturation, and contamination). Collecting samples in a brewery is a lot like collecting them in the field, except that instead of radioactive pore water, one collects tasty, tasty beer (hopefully). Jim’s days now consist of sample collection (wort, finished and packaged beer), microbial work up and determination of base physical parameters (e.g., pH, dO2, carbonation, color, clarity, etc.), monitoring yeast health and pitching rates, and yes, tasting beer. He oversees the brewery’s sensory panels (daily production and degradation) and gets to flex some creative muscle as he is in charge of the in-house grain roasting and smoking programs, tasked with product development and production. Oh yeah, was it mentioned he gets to taste beer?


Jim current lives in Newport, OR with his fiancé (Susanna), their dogs (Clif and Norm) and their cats (Marko and Uma). And his job involves tasting beer.


 

 


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