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W&L Earth and Environmental Geoscience Professor Publishes Peer Reviewed Article in Geochemistry Journal Assistant Professor Margaret Anne Hinkle’s article is titled “Impacts of Sulfonic Acids on Fungal Manganese Oxide Production.”

Margaret-Hinkle-600x400 W&L Earth and Environmental Geoscience Professor Publishes Peer Reviewed Article in Geochemistry JournalMargaret Hinkle, assistant professor of Earth and environmental geoscience

Margaret Anne Hinkle, assistant professor of earth and environmental geoscience at Washington and Lee University, recently published a peer-reviewed article titled “Impacts of Sulfonic Acids on Fungal Manganese Oxide Production.” 

Hinkle’s article was featured in a January edition of Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, a journal that publishes research papers in a wide range of subjects in terrestrial geochemistry, meteoritics and planetary geochemistry.

“Seeing the article published in ‘Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta’ is absolutely wonderful,” said Hinkle. “It represents the culmination of years of experiments, data collection, reflection and writing.”

The research featured in Hinkle’s article was supported by the Lenfest Grant Program with assistance from the Summer Research Scholars program. Javier Peralta ’21 co-authored the article, along with Jeffrey Post from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Cara Santelli, an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Minnesota. Peralta is currently a graduate student studying geophysics at Stanford University.

“Javier was in the first group of students that joined my lab after I started here at W&L,” said Hinkle. “He is one of the most intelligent, kind and thoughtful people I have ever met. Javier was going to present the research we worked on together at a conference that was unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic. To have the research that he conducted that first summer included in our paper and now be published is an incredible feeling.”

The focus of the article is an investigation of sulfonic acids, which are an environmentally important class of sulfur-bearing acidic compounds, and their impact on the biomineralization of manganese, an essential micronutrient and one of the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust. Buffers were used to control the pH of experiments, and the researchers found that all buffers alter the biomineralization of manganese to some degree, with sulfonic acids exerting substantial effects on the process. With the biogeochemical cycles of manganese and sulfur being closely linked, understanding how these two important pools of sulfur and manganese interact with one another helps to better understand these cycles and their potential interactions.

Hinkle has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2017, teaching in the earth and environmental geoscience department and serving as an affiliate faculty member with the environmental studies program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Sewanee: The University of the South, and she earned a master’s and doctorate degree, both in earth and planetary sciences from Washington University in St. Louis.

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