In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

16 July 2021

Home » Research News » In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

Biofilms in high-alpine streams.

As climate change melts away frozen landscapes, high alpine ecosystems are threatened. While we think of them as too extreme to harbor life, we know they’re not only habitable, but they are major ecosystems. In these environments, cold-adapted microorganisms are not only surviving but growing. Understanding how these tiny organisms can thrive in such extreme conditions is a priority.

How does microbial life survive in harsh ecosystems like glacier-fed streams? What functions do biodiversity and ecosystem provided by these communities have? Why it has become urgent to study them?

Dr. Susheel Bhanu Busi is a Postdoctoral Researcher with a molecular microbiology background in the Systems Ecology group at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg. He is studying how biofilms and the domains within like archaea, bacteria, viruses and (micro)eukaryotes adapt to life in alpine streams originating from glaciers.

Microrganisms colder than ice

Glacier-fed streams are harsh ecosystems dominated by microbial life organised in benthic (at the bottom of a body of water) biofilms, yet the biodiversity and ecosystem functions provided by these communities remain under-appreciated.

To better understand the microbial processes and communities contributing to glacier-fed stream ecosystems, the microbiologist uses high throughput sequencing. Low biomass and high inorganic particle load in glacier-fed stream sediment samples may affect nucleic acid extraction efficiency using extraction methods tailored to other extreme environments such as deep-sea sediments.

Originally a wet-lab researcher, manipulating liquids, biological matter, and chemicals, Dr Susheel Busi now straddles both the wet- and dry-lab, focusing on computational methods, to study biofilms in alpine streams. In practice, he used an adapted phenol-chloroform-based extraction method which resulted in higher yields and better recovered the expected taxonomic profile and abundance of reconstructed genomes. His studies provide a first systematic and extensive analysis of the different options for extraction of nucleic acids from glacier-fed streams.

“I believe that my current research into biofilms in alpine streams sheds light on how archaea/bacteria/viruses/microeukaryotes adapt to the cold and harsh environments. More importantly, it sheds the light on the rapid pace at which we are losing high alpine ecosystems due to accelerated global warming, and climate change in general.”

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

Research to make the world a better and safer place

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi’s research journey started as an undergrad at the Madras Christian College in Chennai, India. Looking through the ocular of the microscope he got fascinated by the idea of motility in bacteria. Subsequently, his research led him to a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland in the USA, where he worked on culturing a probiotic bacterium resistant to both high-temperatures and a low-pH.

“The idea was to use this commercially in both food and animal-feed preparations without losing viability of the bacterium and incidentally this also brought me a patent.”

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

The researcher’s interest in biofilms and the interactions therein grew as a PhD student at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“My PhD work identified not only biomarkers of colon cancer allowing for non-invasive screening, but also certain bacteria that may one day be used as potential therapeutics.”

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Having lived in the USA for 10 years, the microbiologist was seeking a new challenge. He was already aware of Luxembourg, specifically of Prof. Paul Wilmes. “The prospect of working with one of the leaders in the field of multi-omics, coupled with the very collaborative environment the LCSB offered was as good a reason as any to come here. Looking back, I wouldn’t have chosen any other way!”

To Susheel Bhanu Busi, “Luxembourg punches well above its weight in the sense that despite being a smaller country, the research community is both diverse and internationally acclaimed.”

“The resources made available to researchers via the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), coupled with the vast levels of expertise across many areas of Science, not just at the LCSB, but also the LIH, LNS, LIST would be ideal for researchers at all career levels. Most importantly, the interdisciplinarity of the research happening across the several labs make Luxembourg one of the premier destinations for microbiome and multi-omic research.”

“From my experience in the USA, I can attest to the world-class facilities available here in Luxembourg for those involved in small animal model research. The microbiome research infrastructure such as the Sequencing Platform at the LCSB speaks for itself, with its highly integrated role in many research projects across many Life Science disciplines. The same holds true for the Metabolomics platform, where many future microbiome studies will eventually gravitate towards.”

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

Interdisciplinarity and collaboration

Belonging to the Systems Ecology group at the LCSB, Susheel Bhanu Busi has been involved in many collaborative research projects in Luxembourg.”When I first started in the Systems Ecology group with Prof. Paul Wilmes, I had the opportunity to work on the ‘Colonization, succession and evolution of the human gastrointestinal microbiome from birth to infancy’ project in collaboration with Dr. Carine de Beaufort, specialising in paediatric diabetology at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL), and the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL).” He is also currently working on a project looking into the evolution of antibiotic resistance in mice in collaboration with Dr. Elisabeth Letellier from the Department of Life Sciences and Medicine (DLSM).

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi is a member of the Luxembourg Society of Microbiology, which every year brings together all researchers and stakeholders involved in Microbiology in Luxembourg and further fosters a collaborative environment.

International collaborative studies with labs in Bangladesh, Germany, India, Switzerland and the USA span from antimicrobial resistance and animal models to extending bioprospecting efforts in other ecosystems. For instance, the glacier-fed stream biofilm project is a collaboration with Prof. Tom Battin at the Stream Biofilms and Ecosystems Research (SBER) lab at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“The research environment in Luxembourg, especially at the LCSB is amazingly interdisciplinary and fosters collaborations both within the country and also internationally. “

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

About living in Luxembourg

Having grown up in India and then lived in the USA, Susheel Bhanu Busi finds that Luxembourg is a happy median between the two countries.

“Luxembourg has the accessibility and ease of access to many things governing one’s life, that the States offer, with the mix of family-oriented values that are reminiscent, to me at least, of home (India)”

Dr Susheel Bhanu Busi

More about the Systems Ecology Group of LCSB

More about Susheel Bhanu Busi

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