Professor Jim Mitchell


College of Science and Engineering

place Biological Sciences (110)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Prof Mitchell is the leading expert on small scale microbial processes with publications in Nature, Science and PNAS. He has given invited talks at the Masschusetts Institute of Technology, at Cambridge University and at the Gordon Research Conference on marine microbiology. He has collaborated with the University of Tokyo, MIT and the University of Chicago. His research group consists of 20+ people, including post doctoral fellows and scientific staff from all over the world. Research in his group focuses on the influences of nanometer to micrometer scale processes on microbial ecosystems. Research outcomes have been used in nanotechnology, including microfluidics and nanofabrication. As part of this research they investigate environmental viruses (>10^8/ml) and metagenomics.


Ph.D. Oceanography, 1988, State University of New York, Stony Brook

M.S. Marine Sciences, 1982, University of California, Santa Cruz

B.A. Biology, 1980, University of California, Santa Cruz

Honours, awards and grants

Editorial Board, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 2000-present

National Science Foundation Nanogeosciences panel member 2001

Australian Acad. Sci. /Japan Soc. Promotion of Sci. Fellowship, 2000-2001

Visiting Assoc. Prof., Earth & Ocean Sci., University of British Columbia, 1997

NASA Planetary Biology Internship, 1987

U.S. Sea Grant Scholar, 1986

Jesse Smith-Noyes Graduate Fellowship, 1983-1984

University of California President's Undergraduate Fellowship, 1979-1980

U.S. National Institutes of Health Research Commendation, 1977

Research expertise
Environmental biotechnology
Quantitative methods
Water contaminant remediation
Research interests

Microbial Fuel Cells
Microbes produce electricity at their cell membrane. This energy can be tapped to produce electricity for human use while simultaneously breaking down waste and toxic organic matter. Our research focuses on how these ecosystems function.

Bacterial Motility

There is little apparent reason for marine bacteria floating in the ocean to be motile. Yet, they are among the most highly motile bacteria known. Research in this lab addresses the generation of high-speed motility, its use, and the energetic and competitive costs of possessing it.

Phytoplankton Dynamics

Research on phytoplankton distributions traditionally occurs over kilometres. However, phytoplankton are much smaller than 1 mm. The basic ecological processes of nutrient competition, reproduction infection spread and grazing occur over distances of millimetres to a metre. Our research describes phytoplankton distributions over millimetres to centimetres and the processes that generate those distributions to understand phytoplankton ecology better.

Microbial Nanopatterning

The cell surfaces of marine microbes are exposed to a variety of salubrious, pathogenic and poisonous particles that range in size from salt ions to bacteria. We are testing the hypothesis that microbial surface topography helps control movement of nearby particles. In ground breaking work, Michelle Hale, has shown that diatom surfaces localise, deflect and sort submicrometre particles. These results help explain why diatoms are a dominant microalgal group in marine and freshwater environments. A spinoff from this work insight into how to control macromolecules in microfluidic flows on silicon chips. Some of this research is carried out in collaboration with Cornell Nanofabrication Facility at Cornell University.

Topic coordinator
BTEC3004 Environmental Biotechnology
BTEC9012 Environmental Biotechnology
BIOL7732 New Colombo Plan - Offshore Placement - 2018 S2
BIOL7732 New Colombo Plan - Offshore Placement - 2018 NS2
BIOL7732 New Colombo Plan - Offshore Placement - 2018 NS1
BIOL7732 New Colombo Plan - Offshore Placement - 2018 S1
Topic lecturer
BIOL1101 Evolution of Biological Diversity
BIOL1102 Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology
Supervisory interests
Biological oceanography
Environmental biotechnology and biodiversity
Microbial ecology
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: Microbial Ecology (6), Systems Biology (1)
Associate supervisor: Microbial Ecology (3), Systems Biology (2)
Principal supervisor: Systems Biology (3), Microbial Ecology (Southern Cross Univ.) (1), Microbial Ecology (RMIT) (1), Microbil Ecology (14)
Associate supervisor: Systems Biology (8), Microbial Ecology (3)
Expert for media contact
Marine Science
Biological Oceanography
Marine Microbiology
Optical Trapping
Oyster Productivity
Available for contact via
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Marine Science
  • Microbiology
  • Biological Oceanography
  • Marine Microbiology
  • Optical Trapping
  • Oyster Productivity

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