Malak Tfaily

Malak Tfaily

Assistant Professor, Environmental Science
Member of the General Faculty
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-3650

Work Summary

My current research is in globally emerging research avenues that transcend laboratory to field-based studies and use modern analytical approaches to advance ecosystem understanding of carbon turnover and storage through molecular characterization. While the majority of work on metabolomics focuses on clinical studies, my work focuses on the soil environment as whole, one of the most complicated but amazing systems on earth.

Research Interest

Created by living things, metabolites or organic compounds are found throughout the world. They have various functions and influences on the environment, yet their varied response to environmental change makes determining their role in the ecosystem challenging and hard to implement in current ecosystem models. Given that many ecosystems are undergoing rapid environmental changes, obtaining a process-level understanding of the mechanisms that affect metabolite production and transformation in soil systems and their function and interactions is important for predicting greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the majority of metabolites in the environment are either unknown or of unknown structure, thus illuminating the dark matter in metabolomics remains another need in my field. Investigating these research questions has not been easy, in part because it requires an integrative multidisciplinary approach that includes chemistry and biology. My training as an analytical chemist provided me the unusual opportunity to learn and apply multi-omics techniques including metabolomics and ultra-sensitive chemical characterization to further advance my capability to identify the molecules and mechanisms that are the correlative basis of ecosystem C cycling science and illuminate this dark matter. Additionally, my approaches are integrative and readily translatable across biomes, diverse ecological settings, and the agricultural/wildland interface.