Wiriya completed her PhD in Chemistry at Stanford University where she studied bacterial biofilms, the communities of bacteria that can come together within a slimy matrix to shelter bacteria from human immune systems and antibiotics in many common infections. Her research led to the discovery of a new, naturally modified cellulose in biofilms of E. coli that bears implications for the treatment of urinary tract infections as well as the development of novel biosynthetic materials. As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Wiriya will now explore her interest in beneficial microbes, hoping to effectively utilize them for sustainable agriculture and investigate microbial abilities to degrade plastic and to tackle the global crisis in plastic waste.
Wiriya aims to use tools from bioinformatics, metabolomics, and microbial engineering to further her research. In particular, she will be using high resolution Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry in the Aristilde Lab at Northwestern University to study molecular mechanisms in microbes as well as their links to environmental processes. Enhancing her current skill set with new analytical and computational techniques, Wiriya will work to explore the potential of soil microbes for plastic biodegradation as well as agricultural improvements, in the form of plant productivity optimization and the production of value-added chemicals from agricultural products or waste.