The Zhang Research Laboratory

Zhang Lab group image

Welcome to the Zhang Geomicrobiology and Biogeochemistry Lab

The Zhang laboratory seeks to understand microbial nutrient and energy transfer in past and present environments.  Our interdisciplinary approach, which draws inspiration from culture-based microbiology, molecular microbial ecology, and stable isotope geochemistry, is imbued by strong consideration of microbial metabolism at cellular and community scales and involves research in both laboratory and field settings.

Metalloproteins are a central theme in our research as they catalyze nearly all energy transfers in biology. Despite their importance, much remains to be understood about what controls metalloprotein activity in the environment. This fundamentally limits our ability to address changes in climate, elemental cycling, and the energy landscape. We believe that viewing metalloprotein activity in the context of broader metabolic fluxes within and between cells will aid in resolving long-standing questions in microbial biogeochemistry.

Opportunities for microbe lovers at both graduate and post-doc levels are available!  Postdoc positions are available for benthic N2 fixation, methane,and alternative nitrogenase related projects.  Undergrads interested in gaining research experience should take a look at summer internships in the Zhang lab funded by the The High Meadows Environmental Institute (see )

Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Contact Information:

Princeton University, Department of Geosciences, M47 Guyot Hall, Princeton NJ 08544

Phone:  (609) 258-2489

E-mail:   [email protected]

Laboratory News

Katja's publication receives international press
Aug. 23, 2021

Katja's recent publication, "Carbon substrate re-orders relative growth of a bacterium using Mo-, V-, or Fe-nitrogenase for nitrogen fixation" just received international press from a group of grad students…

A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change
July 27, 2021
Before soil science settles on a new theory, there will doubtless be more surprises. One may have been delivered recently by a group of researchers at Princeton University including Xinning Zhang, Professor of Geosciences (related article), who constructed a simplified artificial soil using microfluidic devices — essentially, tiny plastic channels for moving around bits of fluid and cells.
The ComPOSTer: Interview with Professor Zhang
Feb. 26, 2021
Our faculty Q&A series wraps up with an update from Professor Xinning Zhang, an environmental microbiologist jointly appointed in the Department of Geosciences and the High Meadows Environmental Institute. This month, the ComPOSTer interviewed Dr. Zhang to learn more about how her lab is extending its research in microbial metabolism and biogeochemcical cycling on the Princeton campus, and how it relates to environmental justice.
Congratulations to Ashley Maloney
Nov. 4, 2020

Ashley Maloney is a recipient of the 2020 Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Marine MicrobialEcology 

Congratulations Eunah Han!
May 8, 2020

Eunah was awarded a PEI HACK award for her proposed research to study hydrological effects on alternative nase activity!


Recent Publications

4 Publications

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) by canonical molybdenum and complementary vanadium, and iron-only nitrogenase isoforms is the primary natural source of newly fixed nitrogen. Understanding controls on global nitrogen cycling requires knowledge of the isoform responsible for environmental BNF. The isotopic acetylene reduction assay (ISARA),…

Understanding microbial niche differentiation along ecological and geochemical gradients is critical for assessing the mechanisms of ecosystem response to hydrologic variation and other aspects of global change. The lineage-specific biogeochemical roles of the widespread phylum Acidobacteria in hydrologically sensitive ecosystems, such as…

New bioavailable nitrogen (N) from biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is critical for the N budget and productivity of marine ecosystems. Nitrogen-fixing organisms typically inactivate BNF when less metabolically costly N sources, like ammonium (NH 4 +), are available. Yet, several studies have observed BNF in benthic…