The evolution of energy metabolism, which turns out to be the co-evolution of biological and geological electron transfer, is incompletely understood. My research centers itself on understanding this co-evolution. Top down approaches, like comparing sequenced genome datasets to constrain the 3D protein structures responsible for electron transfer give me a wide perspective on biogeochemistry. A more narrow perspective is provided by my wet-lab research on the metabolism of deep sea vent microbes, giving me a glimpse into how life may have captured energy by respiring sulfur, long before oxygenation of the planet.
Born in the UK and raised between England, Texas and New Jersey, I have always been deeply aware of human impact on the environment as well as our dependence on nature. Wherever my family moved, I was able to carry my love of nature and my music with me. After a major in Biology at Rutgers, I succumbed to my fascination with sound engineering (also electron transfer!) and music recording, working in various NYC recording studios, eventually recording and promoting several albums of my own. I had an amazing time, I met and married my wife, but somehow still felt unfulfilled, eventually starting the Ben Jelen Foundation to better raise awareness and money for environmental protection. I have since turned away from music as a profession, as having the opportunity to immerse myself in studying the incredible story of life's emergence and evolution has helped provide the fulfillment I was looking for. That and our daughter, Tallulah!
In the future, I hope an improved understanding of biogeochemical cycling will help mitigate the large-scale impacts that human life is having on Earth by providing direction for a civilization in better harmony with the planet.
I graduated in 2000 from Rutgers University, NJ with Honors BA in Biology and minor in Music. I am currently enrolled in the Environmental Science PhD program at Rutgers, working in the labs of Dr. Paul Falkowski (Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology) and Dr. Costa Vetriani (Deep Sea Microbiology Lab).