Magazine article American Scientist

Meet Your Fellow Companion: Nicholas Money

Magazine article American Scientist

Meet Your Fellow Companion: Nicholas Money

Article excerpt

The honor of membership into Sigma Xi spans disciplines and courses of research study. Each month in Sigma Xi Today, we will be highlighting a different "Fellow Companion" - asking them about their work and what the honor of induction into Sigma Xi has meant to their career.

A native of the United Kingdom, botanist Dr. Nicholas Money received his BSc at Bristol University before beginning his doctoral work in mycology under Dr. John Webster at Exeter in the 1980s. After post-doctoral work at Yale University and 18 years at Miami University (Ohio), Money has become one of the primary researchers in fungal biology, with particular interest in the mechanics of spore discharge. He is the author of more than 70 peer-reviewed papers on fungal biology and has authored four books, including Mushroom (2012), described by Nature magazine as a "brilliant scientific and cultural exploration." It is important to note also that in 2012, he was named the Annual Researcher of the Year for the Sigma Xi Chapter at Miami University (Ohio).

1) Do you have a particular teacher or professor who Inspired your love of science? Why?

Mike Madelin was my favorite professor at Bristol. He was an inspiring teacher whose enthusiasm about fungal biology seemed boundless. I worked in his lab as an undergraduate and this experience shifted my perception of biology as a study of big organisms, like us, toward a more sensible view of life as an almost entirely microbial enterprise.

Long before university, my Lincolnshire grandmother introduced me to animals fossilized in Jurassic sandstone and animals croaking in the fens, and taught me the names of British plants.

2) What is the focus of your current research?

My recent lab research has concerned the mechanisms that launch fungal spores into the air. In particular, we are looking at fungi that cause asthma. Despite more than a century of experiments on spore discharge in fungi, very little is known about how the commonest types of spores in the air get airborne. This is a fascinating problem in aerobiology and we are trying to solve it.

3) Tell us about something we might see in our daily lives that directly correlates to your work.

The prevalence of asthma has increased gready in recent years and hundreds of millions of people are allergic to the proteins carried on the surface of fungal spores. Experiments show that the rate of fungal decomposition of plant materials is stimulated by an increase in carbon dioxide concentration and that the fungi produce more spores under these conditions. This raises the possibility that more and more of us will wheeze as the planet gets warmer. …

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