James Tiedje is the director of the NSF Center for Microbial Ecology (CME) at Michigan State University, as well as a Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences and Microbiology. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003  and served as president of the American Society for Microbiology from 2004-2005.  The Center he directed developed novel methods for microbial community analysis that have greatly expanded knowledge about complex microbial communities in soil, sediments, engineered systems, the oceans and within animals. He also created experiments to detect life on Mars that were carried aboard the Viking Mars landers.
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