Mending with Microbes

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Gas stream: a stream of gas (air) coming out of a process, such as a car or a factory.

Interdisciplinary research: using knowledge and methods from different fields together to do research.

Microbe: a living thing so tiny that you would need a microscope to see it... more

Career Path for Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown

Fast Facts:

  • Number of years in school: 26
  • Favorite class / subject: Organic chemistry
  • Hardest class / subject: Physics
  • First Job: Tutor
  • Dream job as a kid: Scientist
  • One word you would use to describe your current job: Exciting

If you’d told a young Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown that she would grow up to do research in microbiology, she probably wouldn’t have believed you.

Even with her interest in biology, Krajmalnik-Brown has always been more interested in chemistry; she even failed her first biology class. But as with many people who eventually become scientists, her natural curiosity led her on a winding path, through twists and turns. Eventually, she would combine her love for chemistry with an interest in microbiology. 

Krajmalnik-Brown

Krajmalnik-Brown used her background in chemistry to pursue microbiology.

Krajmalnik-Brown’s interest in science started early on. At her middle school science fair, she made handmade shampoo – of various colors – which she demonstrated on dolls. Later, after high school, she pursued her interests in chemistry at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana Iztapalapa in Mexico. There, she used chemistry to make new foods and flavors, and even new medicines; she always loved helping people.

Beyond Chemistry

Chemistry was her main focus, but little did she know that this would soon change. While doing her undergraduate work in Mexico City, she met an influential engineer who was using microbes to clean up contaminants from gas streams coming out of a factory. She realized that using microbes to clean waste from streams could have a massive impact on the ecosystem and people’s health. And her background in chemistry would be a huge help in joining the scientists working on this problem.

Contaminated stream

Streams are an important part of many ecosystems, because they move nutrients and water and hold many animals and microbes. Contamination, like shown here from mining pollution, makes streams less beneficial to the ecosystem.

Like the winding path of a stream, Krajmalnik-Brown’s career path has been anything but straightforward. But this is also what makes her research stand out. Her research is a good example of interdisciplinary research, which combines knowledge and approaches from multiple fields (such as chemistry and biology) to ask questions and provide solutions that either field might not have made on their own.

Growing Microbes

She spent years, as a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University, setting up a state-of-the-art microbiome analysis laboratory. In her lab, she uses a DNA sequencing machine to figure out the code of many microbes at once, and she cultures (or grows) microbes to replicate them. She continues applying her knowledge in her lab today, as a professor and researcher at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

A report card showing an "F" grade

Failure is a natural part of success, even in biology. Image via Flickr, by amboo213.

Krajmalnik-Brown’s story is a good example for those thinking about a career in science. You don’t have to know exactly what you are going to do when you start out. What may be more important is to let your interests guide you and change your path as you go. “Exposure to science is very important”, says Krajmalnik-Brown, who suggests that students should get involved in hands-on science in real science labs.

She recommends becoming involved in student organizations, because it gives great opportunities to meet people who might have a big impact on your life. “You are going to spend more time at your job than at your house or doing anything else” she said, so “it is important to do something that you are passionate about and that you believe in.”


Mending with Microbes was created in collaboration with The Biodesign Institute at ASU.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Career Path: Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown
  • Author(s): Pierce Hutton
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: September 4, 2018
  • Date accessed: November 18, 2019
  • Link: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-rosa-krajmalnik-brown

APA Style

Pierce Hutton. (2018, September 04). Career Path: Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved November 18, 2019 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-rosa-krajmalnik-brown

American Psychological Association. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

Chicago Manual of Style

Pierce Hutton. "Career Path: Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 04 September, 2018. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-rosa-krajmalnik-brown

MLA 2017 Style

Pierce Hutton. "Career Path: Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 04 Sep 2018. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 18 Nov 2019. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-rosa-krajmalnik-brown

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/
Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown in the lab
Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown studies how microbes can be used to benefit humans and our environments.

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