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Networking Microbiome Research: A Symposium for a Microbiome Center Consortium


Microbes inhabit all of Earth?s environments from the human body to oceans and soils. They are comprised of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and single-celled eukaryotes. Microbiomes reside in every known ecosystem around the globe, including many plants and animals that also host microbiomes. Microbiome research is an area of deep interest and rapid discovery across multiple institutions in the USA. As a result, microbiome centers have been established at universities, research institutes, and national labs supporting local research and education. Microbiome research is interdisciplinary in nature, cutting across ecosystems and species and scaling from microscopic entities to human health to global cycles. It also encompasses a diversity of disciplines including computer science, chemistry, organismal biology, molecular biology and more, making communication and synthesis challenging. In order to better connect both microbiome researchers and microbiome centers, a consortium of centers is proposed. This award will be used to host a conference at the University of Chicago on 16-17 Jun 2020 to begin to network microbiome centers nationally, leveraging the network for increased progress in microbiome research and its application to education and outreach. <br/><br/>To achieve the goal of networking microbiome centers nationally, the conference will focus on defining a microbiome center consortium, discussing the objectives of the consortium, and developing a plan to sustain a consortium into the future. Key areas where conference proceedings will focus include: (1) Prepare researchers for the field?s rapid methodological advances by addressing where microbiome research needs new methodologies, and where existing methods require standardization and interpretation. (2) Discuss the bioinformatic challenges facing microbiome researchers to accelerate discovery and application in microbiome research. Microbiome-related data presents investigators with unique analysis challenges, both in terms of the quantity and the disparate types of data from DNA sequence data to spatial images. (3) Develop strategies for networking microbiome centers through a session with successful networked organizations that already exist in biology. Finally, the conference will seek to engage the next generation of leadership through both an undergraduate and a graduate student internship as part of the conference, as well as direct invitations to junior faculty leadership at existing microbiome centers.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

David Lederman
University of Chicago
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