Geosciences at Virginia Tech

Graduate Students

Anthony Giuffre
Ph.D. Candidate, Biogeochemistry

5095 Derring Hall
+1.540.231.3386 (FAX)

Mailing Address:
Geosciences MC 0420
1425 Perry St., Room 4044
Blacksburg, VA 24061

B.S., Geology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
B.S., Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009

My research is directed at understanding the physics and chemistry of biomineralization – the processes by which organisms direct the formation of crystalline structures.  In particular, I am interested in learning the roles of polysaccharide compounds in these mineralization processes. Polysaccharide fibrils control the orientation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) biominerals.

Good examples are found in the multilayered extracellular mucilaginous sheath of green algae and cyanobacteria and in specialized vesicles inside coccolithophorids.  Organisms such as arthropods and mollusks exhibit similar controls on CaCO3 mineral orientation in their exoskeletons and shells, which are predominantly composed of the polysaccharide chitin.

This raises the question of whether polysaccharide chemistry has specific roles in directing biomineralization. The last three decades of research show that acidic proteins influence CaCO3 polymorph selection, crystallographic orientation, and nucleation and growth rates but little is known about the polysaccharide activity.

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