Photo of William Hickey, PhDProfessor in Soil Sciences


205B Hiram Smith Annex

Research Interests:Bacterial metabolism of xenobiotics. Bioremediation. Nucleic acid probes to study microbial populations.


Two major thrusts of my research program are molecular ecology of soil microorganisms and bioremediation of organic contaminants in soils and groundwater. Molecular ecology studies focus on identifying elements that transfer genes encoding xenobiotic chemical degradation within soil bacterial populations, and the use of ribosomal RNA probes to study microbial community structure. A fundamental objective of the molecular ecology studies is to determine how, and by what mechanisms, microbial communities respond to environmental perturbation. Bioremediation studies are conducted at many levels including isolation and in vitro analysis of biodegradative organisms to elucidate metabolic pathways, establishment and analysis of microcosms that simulate the response of microbial populations in subsurface environments to biostimulation, and field studies evaluating bioremediation technologies in actual contaminated environments. Through the studies described above students gain experience in variety of techniques including quantifying xenobiotic chemicals and their metabolites by gas- and high pressure liquid-chromatography, use of radiochemicals to determine the fate of toxicants in soil or groundwater, and coupling of molecular probes with luminescent or fluorescent labels to track and quantify specific nucleic acids in environmental samples. Students participating in this program can major in Soil Science or Environmental Toxicology.

  • Starkenburg SR, Chain PS, Sayavedra-Soto LA, Hauser L, Land ML, Larimer FW, Malfatti SA, Klotz MG, Bottomley PJ, Arp DJ, Hickey WJ. Genome sequence of the chemolithoautotrophic nitrite-oxidizing bacterium Nitrobacter winogradskyi Nb-255. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Mar;72(3):2050-63.
  • Burton EO, Read HW, Pellitteri MC, Hickey WJ. Identification of acyl-homoserine lactone signal molecules produced by Nitrosomonas europaea strain Schmidt. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Aug;71(8):4906-9.
  • Vacca DJ, Bleam WF, Hickey WJ. Isolation of soil bacteria adapted to degrade humic acid-sorbed phenanthrene. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Jul;71(7):3797-805.
  • Yuroff AS, Sabat G, Hickey WJ. Transporter-mediated uptake of 2-chloro- and 2-hydroxybenzoate by Pseudomonas huttiensis strain D1. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Dec;69(12):7401-8.
  • Rose P, Harkin JM, Hickey WJ. Competitive touchdown PCR for estimation of Escherichia coli DNA recovery in soil DNA extraction. J Microbiol Methods. 2003 Jan;52(1):29-38.
Mentor to METC Graduate Students:
  • Anna Bos (Current), Ameesha Shetty (2012).
  • Emily Burton (Masters 2004),
  • Alice Yuroff (2002), Michele Zwolinski (2001).
  • Bridget Moran (Masters-1996), Scott Arnold (1995)