Seth bio photo

Seth Bordenstein

Vanderbilt University

Departments of Biological Sciences and Pathology, Microbiology, & Immunology

Dr. Bordenstein is a biologist in the Department of Biological Sciences and in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the founding director of The Vanderbilt Microbiome Initiative and  a worldwide HHMI-initiated science education program, Discover the Microbes Within!. He is also Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation.

His laboratory endeavors to understand the evolutionary and genetic principles that shape symbiotic interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses and the major applications of these interactions to human health. The lab employs hypothesis-driven approaches to study intimate symbioses between arthropods and obligate intracellular bacteria that modify sexual reproduction and facultative symbioses between animals and gut microbes that impact animal health, fitness, and evolution.

He is the recipient of the 2014 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Research, and 2018 Chancellor Faculty Fellow Award from Vanderbilt University.

Key research questions addressed in the Bordenstein Lab:

Blog: Symbionticism | Seminars: Video Channel |Twitter: @Symbionticism

Mary bio photo

Mary K. Firestone

University of California, Berkeley

Department of Environmental Studies, Policy, and Management

Mary K. Firestone is a professor of soil microbiology in the Department of Environmental Studies, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her M.Sc. in microbiology and her Ph.D. in soil microbiology at Michigan State University.

She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017 and is also a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, American Academy of Microbiology, American Geophysical Union, and Ecological Society of America. She has received numerous honors and awards throughout her career, including the Berkeley College of Natural Resources Career Achievement Award, and the Emil Truog Soil Science Award.

Her group's research focuses on the microbial ecology in soils, and in particular microbial processing of carbon and nitrogen that underlie the fundamental understanding capacity of soil to support plant growth as well as knowledge applicable to current problems including terrestrial system response to global change, sustainability, biodegradation, and soil structure.


Michael bio photo

Michael Fischbach

Stanford University

Department of Bioengineering

Michael Fischbach is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University and a member of Stanford ChEM-H. Fischbach is a recipient of the NIH Director's Pioneer and New Innovator Awards, an HHMI-Simons Faculty Scholars Award, a Fellowship for Science and Engineering from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, a Medical Research Award from the W.M. Keck Foundation, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award, and a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging.

His laboratory uses a combination of genomics and chemistry to identify and characterize small molecules from microbes, with an emphasis on the human microbiome. Fischbach received his Ph.D. as a John and Fannie Hertz Foundation Fellow in chemistry from Harvard in 2007, where he studied the role of iron acquisition in bacterial pathogenesis and the biosynthesis of antibiotics. Before coming to UCSF, he spent two years as an independent fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital coordinating a collaborative effort based at the Broad Institute to develop genomics-based approaches to the discovery of small molecules from microbes. Fischbach is a member of the board of directors of Achaogen, the scientific advisory boards of NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Cell Design Labs, and Indigo Agriculture, and is a co-founder of Revolution Medicines.

Research overview

Small molecules from microbes are used widely in the clinic as antibiotics, anticancer agents, immunosuppressants, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. The Fischbach lab focuses on three emerging principles that are changing the understanding of which microbes make natural products, what roles they play in the biology of their producers, and how best to discover them:

  1. Small molecules from the human microbiota.
  2. Computational tools for small molecule discovery.
  3. Using synthetic ecology to control microbiome metabolism.

Webpage: |Twitter: @mfgrp

Jan bio photo

Jan E. Leach

Colorado State University

Associate Dean for Research

International Rice Research Institute

Adjunct Scientist

Jan E. Leach is the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Agriculture, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University and an Adjunct Scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (Philippines). She is an authority on the molecular biology of plant–pathogen interactions.

Her research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of durable disease resistance, particularly in rice-pathogen interactions. Other projects currently underway in her laboratory are related to understanding the impacts of increasing temperatures associated with a changing climate on plant disease and resistance, microbiome-insect-plant interactions, the development of novel tools for detection and monitoring of microbes associated with plants, and bioenergy (genetics of biomass production).

She is a Fellow and past President of the American Phytopathological Society (APS). She is past chair of the APS Public Policy Board and led the initiation of the Phytobiomes Initiative. Dr. Leach is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  She served as Chair of the AAAS Section O (Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources) in 2007, and as a member of the Section O Steering Committee. Dr. Leach is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and serves on the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity.

Prior to her appointment at CSU, Dr. Leach was named a University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University in 1998. She served as President of the International Society of Molecular Plant–Microbe Interactions and has served on or chaired advisory committees for a number of national and international projects, programs and institutions, including the U.S. Rice Genome Sequencing Project, the Research Core for Interdisciplinary Science (RCIS) at Okayama University (Japan), Rural Development Agency (Korea), and a National Research Council (NRC) study. She has served on numerous editorial boards, and was Editor in Chief of the APS journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. Leach earned her B.S. and M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a postdoctoral fellow at East Malling Research Station in Kent, England.

Twitter: @PhytoBiomes & @JanPhytoBiomes

Bryan bio photo

Bryan White

Mayo Clinic and University of Illinois Alliance for Technology-based Healthcare


University of Illinois

National Center for Supercomputing Applications
Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
Department of Animal Sciences
Division of Nutritional Sciences

Professor Emeritus

Dr. Bryan White is interested in using microbial physiology and genetics, microbial genomics and metagenomics, and microbial ecology to understand host-microbe interactions in vertebrates. These interests are in production species such as cattle, swine and poultry, and in models of disease for humans.

With respect to productions species, his lab is interested in models that address nutrient utilization, primarily the rumen fiber-adherent microbiome as a model for improving forage utilization. His lab is also interested in understanding the roles of beneficial and pathogenic organisms and antibiotic use in domestic production animals, as well as approaches that will enable the detection of diseases in livestock and provide critical genetic contexts for understanding food safety.

Additionally, he has researched humans and non-human primate microbiome interactions to address issues in health and well-being. One interest is how bacterial communities colonizing the gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts of primates impact health, survival, fecundity, population fitness, and ultimately evolution of the host.

Their other major interest is in characterizing the microbiome in the human vagina that are associated with bacterial vaginosis. They hope to elucidate microbial risk predicators for preterm birth, one of the unfortunate outcomes from untreated and undetected bacterial vaginosis. As part of this project, they are applying high throughput genomic technologies to identify microbes and make gene predictions that can lead to personalized medical diagnostics — genomic information that physicians could use as predictors of risk and positively impact clinical outcomes and women's health.


Elizabeth Ryan, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Ryan


Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Radiation Cancer Biology and Oncology Section, Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences

Dr. Ryan’s research explores the complex interactions with gut microbiota and the immune system. Her interests span both enteric disease and cancer control and prevention, with collaborators and translational application to the broader fields of microbiology, immunology, oncology, pediatrics, and nutrition. It also includes developing innovative solutions to food systems that will enhance food security. The multi-platform research strategy for the research group covers molecular biology, laboratory animal models, companion animals, and human trials.


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