Dr. Ramirez earned his PhD in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography at the University of Southern California. In the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Haifa, he studies how marine bacteria transform light energy into chemical energy. Photosynthesis is the best-known mechanism for this, but Dr. Ramirez focuses on the less explored process of photoheterotrophy as it takes place in non-photosynthetic proteorhodopsin (PR)-containing prokaryotes. He hypothesizes that PR photoheterotrophy provides a selective advantage to marine bacteria inhabiting nutrient-poor waters. Dr. Ramirez builds on the extensive experience he has gained in past research voyages in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans. This time he is collecting samples of marine bacteria on research cruises in different seasons and in different geographic sites to see which marine environmental factors trigger light-mediated energy production. In the lab, he runs incubation experiments using the derived next-generation sequencing data, drawing on his expertise in bioinformatics. His work could potentially expand our understanding of the ecology of photobiology in the ocean surface, the most widespread habitat on earth.
As a teenager in the U.S. Army JROTC program, Dr. Ramirez devoted significant time to understanding and practicing leadership skills such as bearing, courage, decisiveness, dependability, and endurance. He feels that his training has paid countless dividends in nearly every important professional and personal decision in his life.