Dr. Baars is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology at NCSU. He is also a member of the Center for Integrated Fungal Research and associated faculty in the Chemistry department at NCSU. His interests include the microbiology of trace-metals in the environment and consequences of trace-metal availability for small-molecule microbiome interactions, crop productivity, and biogeochemical cycles. After B.Sc. and M.Sc. studies in Chemistry at the University of Leipzig (Germany), Prof. Baars graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from the University of Kiel (Germany). In his Ph.D. research, he studied the distribution and speciation of trace-metals as micro-nutrients in the ocean and how they can control microbial growth and the cycles of the major elements of life. In the following years as a Postdoc at Princeton University (NJ), he developed chelomics – a new metabolomic approach for discovery and characterization of metal chelating compounds in complex samples.
Broadly speaking, we study the biological chemistry of secretions produced by plants, bacteria, and fungi. These secretions contain signals, antibiotics, and compounds to optimize local growth conditions. Understanding the biochemistry of secretions will enable us to decipher how pathogenic and beneficial plant-microbe interactions are established. Such insight enables the development of new tools to enhance plant growth under stress.
Current projects have a focus on the role of iron and other trace-metals that plants, bacteria, and fungi need as micro-nutrients or try to avoid in the case of heavy metals. Trace-metals are required as cofactors in enzymes of all life forms. To keep the levels of trace-metals in the cell sufficient while avoiding uptake of heavy metals, plants and microbes secrete highly bioactive compounds. These secretions give rise to beneficial or pathogenic interactions and impact the immune system of plants.
Ph.D., Chemical Oceanography, University of Kiel (2011)
M.S., Chemistry, University of Leipzig (2008)
B.Sc., Chemistry, University of Leipzig (2005)