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Nicholas Butzin

Dr. Butzin in the Lab

Title

Assistant Professor of Synthetic Biology

Office Building

Alfred Dairy Science Hall

Office

225E

Mailing Address

Alfred Dairy Science Hall 225E
Biology & Microbiology-Box 2104A
University Station
Brookings, SD 57007

Biography

Dr. Butzin joined the Department of Biology and Microbiology at South Dakota State University in 2017 as an Assistant Professor. He previously was a Research Scientist and postdoc in the Department of Physics, Virginia Tech, and a postdoc in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of Connecticut. The Butzin lab explores microbial systems using an evolutionary perspective and a synthetic biology approach. His goal is to understand the principles behind robustness in both natural and synthetic microbial systems. He is particularly interested in how individual cells cope with constant fluctuations in natural environments and limited enzymatic resources. Although his lab has several ongoing projects ranging from the development of new robust synthetic circuits to the study of antibiotic resistance and biofilms, all projects utilize synthetic biology to understand natural phenomena or to develop products for industrial and medical applications. His lab uses mathematical and computational approaches along with wet-lab experiments to probe and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that generate cellular plasticity and robustness.

Academic Responsibilities

I have the great pleasure of teaching two different courses:
Fall: Introductory Microbiology (MICR-233)
Spring: Microbial Physiology (MICR-332)

Awards and Honors

Dr. Sherwood and Elizabeth Berg Young Faculty Award
- South Dakota State University.
- Awarded: 02/19/2020
Awarded based on a commitment to teaching, research, and outreach. Consisted of a monetary portion to support research and scholarly activities.

Grants

Current Funding (newest to oldest)
- Since 2018, I have helped to secure $5,479,360 in funds from five grants as PI, Co-PI, or investigator.

2021 NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI)
- Butzin Role: Co-PI
- Fund source: National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Amount: $243,000
- Title: MRI: Acquisition of an Octet RED96 BioLayer Interferometry Instrument for Multidisciplinary Molecular Interaction Research and Training
- Award Number: 2117500
- Link: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=2117500&HistoricalAwards=false

2020 NSF EPSCoR Seed Grant
- Butzin Role: Co-PI
- Fund source: National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Amount: $49,999
- Title: Role of priority effects on gut microbiota assembly on gut mucosal interface

2019 NSF Funded Grant
- Butzin Role: PI
- Fund source: National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Amount: $1,138,000
- Title: Using a queueing framework to explore the design principles of synthetic circuits in microorganisms
- Award Number: 1922542
- Link: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1922542

2019 NSF EPSCoR Grant
- Butzin Role: Investigator
- Fund source: National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Amount: $3,828,361
- Title: RII Track-1: Building on The 2020 Vision: Expanding Research, Education and Innovation in South Dakota
- Award Number: 1849206
- Link: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1849206&HistoricalAwards=false

Work Experience

2017-present
Assistant Professor of Synthetic Biology, Department of Biology and Microbiology, South Dakota State

2016-2017
Research Scientist, Department of Physics, Virginia Tech

2012-2016
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Physics, Virginia Tech

2009-2012
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of Connecticut

2005-2009
Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Area(s) of Research

Research Interests
- Metabolic engineering; synthetic biology.
- Molecular microbial physiology and evolution.
- Natural and synthetic microbial networks: oscillators, biosensors, etc.
- Robustness and fitness of microbial life and biological systems: antibiotic resistance, tolerance, and persistence; bacterial dormancy; microbial adaptation; microbial ecology.
- Life at the extreme (extremophilic organisms) and the origin of cellular life.

Applications of Research

I am broadly interested in molecular microbial physiology and evolution, which I have studied in the past using traditional microbiology, molecular biology, and bioinformatic tools. However, these methods limit the analysis to one aspect of the cell (e.g. gene or protein, one pathway, etc.). I have moved towards the more holistic approach of Synthetic and Systems Biology. Current work utilizes several organisms including Escherichia coli, Mycoplasma, and a few thermophiles. We utilize these organisms and synthetic systems to study persistence, synthetic ecologies, bottlenecks, cellular response to stress, and other phenomena. We use both mathematical and computational methods alongside wet-lab experiments to probe and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that generate and maintain bacterial robustness. This combination of approaches encompasses several disciplines: microbiology, molecular and cell biology, engineering, physics, biophysics, and bioinformatics. Much of our work involves using cutting-edge techniques such as microfluidic devices and machine learning algorithms.