NYUAD Researcher Awarded Grant to Study Symbiosis Between Phytoplankton and Bacteria

Faculty member at NYU Abu Dhabi, Shady Amin, will study the network of relationships between key microbes in the marine environment

Press Release

Assistant Professor of Biology at NYUAD Shady Amin, has received a research grant from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The grant, worth USD 563,000, will fund research that studies the symbiotic relationship between phytoplankton and bacteria, helping further scientific understanding of the global marine food web, which supports a diverse range of aquatic life, and how a warming climate will change that relationship.

Phytoplankton, or microscopic marine and freshwater algae, are responsible for half of photosynthesis on the planet – a process which generates roughly half the oxygen in the atmosphere and produces organic matter that fuels most marine life, including bacteria. In turn, bacteria provide essential nutrients for phytoplankton which supports their growth. Researching how these two organisms interact, known as the study of symbiosis, helps further understand the global marine ecosystem.


“This is an exciting initiative that will potentially change our perspective on the importance of symbiosis in biology in general and in the oceans in specific. In my lab, we are hoping to develop new tools that will enable new discoveries of chemicals and molecular mechanisms that govern these symbiotic relationships and can hopefully be used by scientists in other fields who are interested in studying symbiosis between organisms”.

Assistant Professor of Biology at NYUAD Shady Amin

Through the grant Amin will study both bacteria and phytoplankton in new contexts. During the course of his study, Amin hopes to create a toolkit for global researchers to use to investigate the complex interrelationship between phytoplankton and bacteria which sustains an array of sea life, including whales, jellyfish, snails, and shrimp.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation established the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative, which will invest USD 19 million over the next three years and supports 42 teams of scientists to understand advanced model systems of symbiosis in the marine environment.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.