College of Science

Environmental Science MS

ENSCI Student Defends Thesis on Pesticide Remediating Microbes 

Kieran smiling for the camera, wearing a life vest while rafting.


Kieran Szelong recently defended their thesis research "The genomics of pesticide-remediating microbes relevant to agricultural specialty crops grown on California's Central Coast" in front of their committee and a public audience on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. 


We reached out to Kieran following their successful defense to learn more about their thesis research and overall experience as an Environmental Science graduate student. Check out their interview below for more details. 

Thesis title: "The genomics of pesticide-remediating microbes relevant to agricultural specialty crops grown on California's Central Coast" 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nathaniel Jue 


What did your thesis research entail?

We wanted to find out if pesticide-treated soils had particular types of bacteria growing in them in order to find strains that might be good bioremediators for agricultural toxins.  So we sampled agricultural and natural soils around the Salinas Valley and ran 16S sequencing to create bacterial diversity profiles to find out more about what's going on with soil health in this region.  We found some very interesting differences in soil bacteria community makeup according to geography and land use, and this work may lead to promising bioremediation studies in the future!

How has your thesis project contributed to your career goals?

I've learned so much about carrying an incredibly complex project through from start to finish---how to sequence environmental DNA---and how to collaborate with local and state partners to accomplish a unified goal.  I was very lucky to be selected to work on this project, and it has provided a great basis of both widely-transferable practical career skills, alongside more specific in-depth technical knowledge.

What is your favorite part about being a graduate student at CSUMB?

The community of graduate students at CSUMB has been so supportive and wonderful throughout this process.  I've made friendships that will last a lifetime, and I know that I'll have a network of people all around the country with the same ambitions and career goals as me.

What are your plans after graduate school?

I'm moving to the Baltimore / DC area later this year and looking for a job in any one of a few fields I have experience in: marine science, general environmental science, or science advocacy/education. 

Anything else that you'd like to share?

I'd be happy to chat with any current graduate students in the LGBTQ community who are looking for resources and guidance on how to navigate higher education and advocate for yourself in the sciences.  A diversity of ideas and voices is vital for advancing our collective understanding of the world around us.


Congratulations, Kieran! We look forward to seeing where your professional endeavors take you!