Timberley Roane, Ph.D.
Superfund Research Program
From staring at the stars in the sky to poring over her family's World Book Encyclopedia collection, Timberley Roane spent much of her childhood thinking about the invisible world—biological, chemical, and physical—all around us. She developed a particular fascination with microorganisms when studying wastewater treatment in her high school's Advanced Biology class. When she learned about the role microorganisms play in restoring water quality, she wondered, "How can such tiny organisms do this?" She has dedicated her professional life to learning as much as she can about environmental microbiology.
After receiving a B.Sc. from the University of California - Davis and an M.S. from the University of Idaho, Timberley entered the Ph.D. program in the University of Arizona's Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science. She received an EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship in order to study "Microbial Remediation of Metal-Contaminated and Organically-Contaminated Soils." Her project successfully used bacteria to detoxify metals, such as cadmium and lead, and to degrade organic pollutants, such as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, in order to clean up co-contaminated soils.
Timberley's participation in the Superfund Research Program during her doctoral studies helped to hone her professional skills at an early stage: she interacted with engineers, hydrologists, toxicologists, and public-health officials, who were researching different aspects of similar problems; traveled internationally to present her data to diverse audiences; and served as Principal Investigator on a major grant proposal that was funded for several hundred thousand dollars. Her well-rounded, cutting-edge experience at Arizona allowed her to bypass the postdoctoral route and accept an offer to join the University of Colorado - Denver's faculty in 1999.
Currently, Timberley serves as Associate Professor and Associate Chair in UC - Denver's Department of Integrative Biology. Her research still focuses on microbial communities and how they respond to environmental pressures, and she has continued her STAR-related work on the use of bacteria in metal detoxification and mitigation (with a more recent focus on genomics and proteomics). She also has put her expertise to use in other topics, such as the microbial ecology of pediatric atopic dermatitis: she and her team are working to identify a core microbial community associated with affected skin, and they hope this will help them to understand the ecology/environment of skin microflora.
In addition to conducting research and directing her department's graduate program, Timberley keeps busy serving the wider scientific community: applying her biological knowledge to the field of museum preservation , participating as a faculty mentor in the GK-12 Transforming Experiences Project , and presenting at the Colorado Cafe Scientifique .
Over the years, Timberley's research has increasingly incorporated new methods and techniques from a variety of disciplines: biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics, and statistics. Environmental microbiology is no longer the study of microorganisms in the environment; it is now the study of how microorganisms and the environment interact with each other. Thus, she counsels the next generation of scholars in her field to think along interdisciplinary lines, to be scientists first and microbiologists second, and to recognize (as the editors of her beloved World Book Encyclopedia surely did) that everything is open to rediscovery.