Montana State University

Mark Young named Fellow in American Academy of Microbiology

May 6, 2013 -- MSU News Service

Mark Young will be recognized May 21 as a new Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology. (MSU file photo).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN - A Montana State University microbiologist who studies viruses that thrive in the extreme conditions of Yellowstone National Park, develops viruses into tiny transporters, and leads efforts to enhance research in Montana has been named a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology.

Mark Young will be recognized Tuesday, May 21, in Denver at the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. The organization is the world's oldest and largest group devoted to a single life science. It has more than 39,000 members, with more than one-third of those living outside of the United States.

One of 87 new fellows this year, Young was selected for his outstanding and original contributions to the field of microbiology. He uses viruses to understand viral diseases and as models for exploring cell biology.By combining biochemical and genetic techniques, he studies the interaction of genetic products between the virus and host. He also researches ways that viruses assemble and dissemble, which helps him and his collaborators design protein cages that can carry extremely tiny materials, called nanomaterials, throughout the body.

Young is a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology in MSU's College of Agriculture and conducts research in MSU's Thermal Biology Institute. He also directs the National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research in Montana. EPSCoR enhances the development of Montana's science and technology resources through partnerships involving state universities, private industry, government, federal research and development enterprise.

Regarding his Yellowstone research, Young said viruses that live in pools where temperatures exceed 176 degrees Fahrenheit can reveal the biochemical modifications that organisms undergo to endure the stresses of surviving in such extreme environments.

"This is fascinating in terms of basic research, but also particularly relevant to the biotech and manufacturing industries," Young said. "Protein and molecular mechanisms that function in harsh environments can be applied to industrial processes that require similar conditions, such as low pH and elevated temperature."

He added that Yellowstone has more than 10,000 geothermal features, and the temperatures, levels of acidity and geochemistry vary widely between them.

"The sheer magnitude of this diversity lends itself to scientific discovery," Young said.

Microbiologists in general study microorganism, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae. Some cause diseases, but many contribute to the balance of nature or benefit humans in various ways. Microbiological research includes infectious diseases, recombinant DNA technology, alternative methods of energy production and waste recycling, new sources of food, and new drug development. Microbiologists also address environmental problems and industrial processes.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or