Dr. Alejandro Murillo (Chile, 1981) obtained his Ph.D. degree in Biological Sciences, majoring in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in 2011. He developed his thesis in the study of freshwater toxin producing cyanobacteria (neuro- and hepato-toxins), characterizing the gene cluster encoding the enzymes that synthesize these toxins.
During the development of his doctoral thesis he participated as a student in the Austral summer course 'Ecology and Diversity of Marine Microorganisms' (ECODIM V, 2008), offered as part of the activities of the 'Austral Summer Institute' (ASI VIII), hosted by the Universidad de Concepción, and became interested in microbial oceanography.
That same year, he attended the summer course on 'Microbial Oceanography', organized by the 'Center of Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education' (C-MORE, 2008), hosted by the University of Hawai'i, USA. Deepening his interest in this area, specifically into the genomic analysis of environmental microbial communities (Metagenomics) in the ocean and their impact on the biogeochemical cycles.
After finishing his doctoral studies he joined Dr. Osvaldo Ulloa's lab as a postdoctoral researcher, in the frame of the international project 'Microbial Initiative in Low Oxygen areas off Concepción and Oregon' (MI-LOCO), funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Since May-2010 to date Dr. Murillo has developed his investigation in metabolic reconstruction of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria, which dominate the microbial community in the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ), and How? These bacteria impact the nitrogen and carbon cycles in the water column off coast of Concepción. In this context, in 2012 the Chilean Research Council (CONICYT) granted Dr. Murillo with a Postdoctoral fellowship through the FONDECYT #3120047 grant, entitled: 'Identity and functional diversity of the CO2-fixers microorganisms in an OMZ coastal system: through stable isotope probing and metagenomics'.
Dr. Murillo's contribution to the Millennium Institute of Oceanography will be to progress in the analysis of microbial communities in the eastern South Pacific Ocean, using molecular genetic tools to determine their taxonomic and functional diversity, reconstruct their metabolic potential and evaluate the expression of this potential. Understand, How these communities interact? What are their specific adaptations to the variety of oceanic environments? How impact and modulate the biogeochemical cycles? In summary; to understand the 'microbial ecology' of the oceanic areas which are of interest to the Institute.
Dr. Alejandro Murillo also collaborates with researchers Ruben Escribano, Carmen Morales, Samuel Hormazábal and Marcela Cornejo.