Lab Members

Dr. Paul Lawson

Lawson HeadshotI obtained my B.Sc in Special Biochemisty at the University of London (Royal Holloway College) in 1984. Upon graduation I joined an Medical Research Council Periodontal Research Unit at the London Hospital Medical College where I worked on the isolation and characterization of anaerobic bacteria. In 1986 I joined the Directors Laboratory at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund where I was part of a team investigating the genetic inheritance of Colon Cancer. I then then returned to the LHMC in the Department of Oral Microbiology where I continued my research for my Ph.D thesis entitled ‘A molecular and systematic study of the genus Fusobacterium with particular reference to Fusobacterium nucleatum and Fusobacterium necrophorum’. Upon completion of this study l joined the Systematics Research Group of Professor M.D. Collins at the BBSRC Institute of Food Research, Reading, UK.

My interests include molecular based methodologies of a wide range of both anaerobic and aerobic organisms. A major area of interest was with the genus Clostridium, which represents a heterogeneous and exceedingly problematic group of anaerobic spore-forming bacteria. However my research activities extend far beyond the systematics of clostridia and I am interested in microbial phylogeny in the broadest context embracing clinical, veterinary and environmental sources for the isolation of novel bacterial biodiversity. In 1999 our group transferred to the University of Reading where I progressed to Senior Research Fellow and was involved in many varied research projects under my mentor, Professor M. David Collins D.Sc. (Bergey Award 1990; Van Neil International Prize for Studies in Bacterial Systematics, 2008).

In 2005 I took up my present faculty position. On arrival at the University of Oklahoma in 2005 and establishing my own research group it was clear I had some decisions to make on the direction of my future work, due to my wide interests. An important consideration was which projects would ultimately be fundable as well as academically interesting and challenging. In addition to continuing some productive and well-established projects undertaken at the University of Reading, UK, I was very keen to initiate collaborations with my new colleagues here at OU. In addition to original research projects, and courses taught I also make regular contributions to the Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology. In 2009, I was inducted as a Fellow of the Australasian College of Biomedical Sciences for my contributions to biomedical sciences (although an Englishman!).

In the following year, I was appointed as the Associate Editor for Bulletin of the Bergey’s International Society for Microbial Systematics and in 2012 was elevated to the rank of Editor-in-Chief. In September 2012, I was appointed to the Editorial board of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology as an Associate Editor. Published by the Society for General Microbiology (SGM), is the IJSEM is the leading forum for the publication of new taxa of bacteria and yeasts, and it is the official journal of record for bacterial names of the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP) of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS).

Dr. Matt Caldwell
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Krithi Sankaranarayanan
Assistant Professor of Microbiology
Research Interests: Microbial Ecology, Biogeography, Evolution, and Phylogenetics; Microbiome Informatics; Microbiome-Host Interactions; Ancient DNA; Evolution in Hypersaline Ecosystems


See Also:
OU Faculty Page, ResearchGate

Nisha Patel

I am working on the collaboration between the Lawson and LMAMR Laboratories, investigating the microbiome of indigenous populations of hunter-gatherers in Peru and studying if the human gut microbiota from these isolated communities are unique and have any functional genomic potential compared to more developed populations. The focus will be centered on the isolation and characterization of microorganisms belonging to the Firmicutes group, specifically, Ruminococcus. My goal is to study the impact this genera could have on an individual’s well being and the potential implications for various diseases. I am also investigating the use of an in-silico approach to characterizing novel microorganisms using genomic information.

See Also:
Laboratories of Molecuar Anthropology and Microbiome Research (LMAMR)

•    University of Oklahoma, Microbiology BS 2008
•    University of Oklahoma, Ph.D. Student 2012-Present

Liz Saavedra

I am working on the reclassification of species within the Clostridium genus and the characterization of novel organisms from various genera. My interests include the characterization of novel clinical organisms with the goal of further understanding their interaction with the host and the host’s immune system.

•    University of Oklahoma, Microbiology BS 2015
•    University of Oklahoma, Masters Student 2015-Present

Laboratory Alumni

Dr. Lindsey O’Neal

Lin HeadshotI investigated the evolution of the human intestinal microbiome that was collaboration between the Lawson and Lewis Laboratories. Research of geographically isolated indigenous communities of Peru will determine if the microbial ecosystem is not only unique but also potentially infectious. My goal was to investigate the microorganisms present within these indigenous communities by culturing key species such as those belonging to the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. These specific species are associated with both health and disease processes and therefore it is fundamentally important to determine the physiological traits and determine their functionality within the GI tract.  Identification and characterization of the genera within this microbial ecology will yield information on the impact of gut microbiota-targeted therapies and will be uniquely beneficial to health research.

•    University of Oklahoma, Microbiology BS 2009
•    University of Oklahoma, Ph.D. Student 2010-2017

Dr. Crystal N. Johnson

Niki HeadshotMy research was focused on the anaerobic cultivation and phylogenetic characterization of novel bacteria and archaea. It has been estimated that only 1% of life has been identified, leaving an enormous opportunity to contribute to our knowledge of microbial biodiversity and taxonomic discovery. As part of Dr. Lawson’s Lab, I employed molecular techniques to identify isolated microorganisms from anaerobic enrichments based off targeted metabolic properties.
Specifically, I’m interested in Microbially Influenced Corrosion (MIC), and in culturing anaerobic microorganisms from the Alaskan North Slope that are involved in biocorrosion problems. Ultimately, identification of these inhabitants and further analysis of their biochemical activity will lead to the mitigation of issues concerning infrastructure damage due to MIC in industrial settings as well as problems with fuel biodeterioration. Additionally, the characterization of novel organisms and taxonomic studies will contribute to the overall understanding of the microbial diversity of petroleum microbiology.
Similarly, I am also applying the same mitigation goals and anaerobic culturing techniques to the identification of novel organisms responsible for the toxic compounds produced from swine slurry that is being stored in large underground holding tanks. Aside from being odorous, compounds such as indols, phenolics, ammonia, and volatile amines can be harmful to humans in direct contact, and are thus an important area of study. I am currently working to culture novel anaerobic Archaea from these samples.

•    University of Oklahoma Microbiology BS 2008
•    University of Oklahoma Microbiology PhD 2015

Nathaniel Losey

Nate HeadshotI joined the Lawson lab beginning in the Fall of 2009. I graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology. The reason I decided to join the Lawson lab was in order to learn and master a wide range of anaerobic techniques. I hope to learn how to isolate, characterize, and employ various molecular techniques for the purpose of studying anaerobic microorganisms. My research will be focused on attempting to isolate and characterize novel organisms from a relatively unexplored group of hot springs with temperatures averaging 60°C. The unique characteristics of this particular system of hot springs hopefully harbor microbes with metabolisms atypical of other more thoroughly examined hot springs with much higher temperatures. A secondary aspect of my research will be to attempt to correlate the relationship between the variety of microenvironments present and the diversity of Bacteria and Archaea found at these sites.

•    Clemson University, Microbiology BS 2009
•    University of Oklahoma, MS Graduate 2009-2012

Dr. Chris Marks

Marks Headshot

My research interests are in the application of microbial processes to industrial problems specifically those where a current waste product may be converted into a viable industrial substrate.

•    University of Oklahoma, Microbiology BS 2008
•    University of Oklahoma, MS Graduate 2008-2011


    Dr. Heather Nunn

Heather HeadshotI graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a B.S. in Biology. My research interests are broadly defined by environmental microbiology and microbial ecology. I am currently working on my PhD with Dr. Paul Lawson and Dr. Bradley Stevenson. My research is focused on Microbially Influenced Corrosion using high throughput molecular methods with the goal being better monitoring and mitigation of corrosion.


•    University of Central Oklahoma, Biology BS 2006
•    University of Oklahoma PhD Student 2006-Present

Michelle Thomas

Michelle HeadshotMy research interests include studying microbial populations found in the GI tract of children with regressive autism. My interests include rock climbing, dancing, and dancing. In addition to working in the lab, during the semester, I am a Teaching Assistant for the Capstone lab in microbiology and Research Assistant. During the summer, I enjoy teaching Upward Bound Biology II. During my spare time, I am also a co-owner / manager of Erin Capri L.L.C., a fashion line for women specializing in creating unique designs for women.


•    University of Oklahoma, Microbiology BS 2005