Mission Stories

Life undiscovered

For geomicrobiologist Dr. Brandi Kiel Reese, going a step beyond means making connections between tiny microbes and huge advances in science.

Microbes are tiny organisms such as bacteria, archaea and viruses that cannot be seen by the naked eye.


While they may be small in size, they have a big impact on the world. Life-saving drug discoveries, climate change solutions and genetic engineering are just some of the things in which microbial research plays a key role.


Geomicrobiologist Dr. Brandi Kiel Reese has dedicated her life to testing, researching and analyzing these fascinating microbes.

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“I study microbes because they are the earth’s powerhouse. Without them, we wouldn’t have the earth as we know it today.”

Dr. Brandi Kiel Reese

Probing into these tiny worlds does come with certain challenges, however. As Brandi studies microbes in extreme environments, such as those buried deep within the sediment under the sea floor, her samples are inherently hard to manage. Not to mention, the sediment Brandi works with has such low biomass that she needs the testing to be as accurate as possible.


Understanding the intricacies of Brandi’s studies, Tracey Lavezzi, a Genetic Solutions Specialist at Thermo Fisher Scientific, suggested digital PCR to interrogate rare water samples in order to increase the precision and speed of her research.


The innovation did exactly that, explains Brandi. “Digital PCR allows me to get single copies of genes in an accurate and precise way that I've never been able to before.”


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“We realized we’ve found a whole new application for digital PCR that we hadn’t even thought about previously.”

Tracey Lavezzi
Genetic Solutions Specialist
Thermo Fisher Scientific

By using digital PCR to study a microbe’s RNA and DNA, Brandi can improve our knowledge of genetic processes such as the evolution of viruses. In addition, this research could help us understand the impact of climate change, the scarcity of resources and much more.

Microbes have the power to change the world as we know it, so it’s imperative we glean as much as we can from them.


As one of the first in her field to implement digital PCR in this way, Brandi has propelled her studies to new heights, unravelling intricate microbial mysteries that were once elusive. This pioneering spirit not only reflects Brandi's dedication, but also shows how researchers and innovators can work together to push the boundaries of scientific exploration.

While microbes may be small, the impact of Tracey and Thermo Fisher's dynamic collaboration with Brandi has been huge. From sample collection to data analysis, the partnership has enabled Brandi to push her work even further, proving that size is no measure of progress.