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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Dianne Newman, 27

Harvard Medical School

Dianne Newman did not plan a career in geomicrobiology--she expected to be a lawyer. But one day in a lab, someone handed her a bottle of a yellowish substance. "I had some materials science background, and I managed to find out the bacteria in the bottle were producing the yellow stuff--and it was arsenic trisulfide," she recalls. "That was it--I was hooked.”

Today, Newman, who becomes an assistant professor at Caltech in January, is a leader in geomicrobiology, a new field that draws from microbiology, environmental science and geochemistry. Her goal, she says, is to figure out how microorganisms "shape the chemistry of their environment." The reward could be microorganisms with unique metabolic properties useful for making new medicines--or cleaning up toxic waste sites.

Newman’s research in geomicrobiology could also produce clues to interpreting evolutionary and geological records. According to Caltech president David Baltimore, who nominated Newman for the TR100, she has "positioned herself, perhaps uniquely, to lead in the development of a new and exciting discipline for understanding the geologic evolution of the Earth and the interactions between the biosphere and the Earth."

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