Scientific Advisory Board
Dean A. Richard Newton Memorial Professor of Bioengineering
University of California – Berkeley
Assistant Professor of Science, Technology & Society
Stevens Institute of Technology
Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Altarum Institute/ERIM Russell O’Neal Endowed Professorship
University of Michigan
Associate Professor of Microbiology
Oregon State University
Rachel Carson Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Yale School of Medicine
Adam Arkin is the Dean A. Richard Newton Memorial Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and Senior Faculty Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He and his laboratory specialize in the systems and synthetic biological approaches for discovery, prediction, control and design of microbial and viral functions and behaviors in environmental contexts (https://arkinlab.bio).
He is the chief scientist of the Department of Energy Scientific Focus Area, ENIGMA (Ecosystems and Networks Integrated with Genes and Molecular Assemblies, http://enigma.lbl.gov), designed to understand, at a molecular level, the impact of microbial communities on their ecosystems with specific focus on terrestrial communities in contaminated watersheds. He also directs the Department of Energy Systems Biology Knowledgebase (KBase) program: (http://kbase.us) an open platform for comparative functional genomics, systems and synthetic biology for microbes, plants and their communities, and for sharing results and methods with other scientists. He is director of the Center for Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (https://cubes.space) which seeks microbial and plant-based biological solutions for sustained, closed-loop systems that reduce the launch mass and improves reliability and quality of food, pharmaceuticals, fuels and materials for astronauts on a mission to Mars. In addition to these, he is currently working on live therapeutics for airway infections and antibiotic resistant bacteria as these are likely to be increasing as climate changes.
Amber Benezra is a sociocultural anthropologist researching how studies of the human microbiome intersect with biomedical ethics, public health/technological infrastructures, and care. In partnership with human microbial ecologists, she is developing an “anthropology of microbes” to address global health problems across disciplines.
Her book Gut Anthro: An Experiment in Thinking with Microbes, will be published by University of Minnesota Press in May 2023. Gut Anthro is an ethnography of a partnership with human microbial ecologists studying gut microbes and malnutrition. The book explores what it means to collaborate interdisciplinarily, facing the corresponding compromises and uncertainties, challenges and failures. What would it mean for anthropology to act with science? Gut Anthro follows microbes through various enactments in scientific research—microbes as kin, as data, and as race. Gut Anthro is a tour de force of science studies and medical anthropology as well as an intensely personal and deeply theoretical account of what it means to do anthropology today: https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/gut-anthro.
Joan Wennstrom Bennett has been a Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey since 2006. Prior to coming to Rutgers, she was on the faculty at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, for over thirty years. The Bennett laboratory studies the genetics and physiology of filamentous fungi. In addition to mycotoxins and other secondary metabolites, research focuses on the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by fungi. These low molecular weight compounds are responsible for mold and mushroom odors and may contribute to adverse health effects associated with damp indoor environments. Some VOCs function as semiochemicals for insects, while others serve as developmental signals for fungi. The Bennett lab has tested individual fungal VOCs in model systems and found that 1-octen-3-ol (“mushroom alcohol”) is a neurotoxin in Drosophila melanogaster and causes growth retardation in Arabidopsis thaliana. It also inhibits growth of the fungus that causes “white nose syndrome” in bat populations. In other studies, the Bennett lab has demonstrated that VOCs from living cultures of Trichoderma, a known biocontrol fungus, can enhance plant growth. Prof. Bennett chaired the National Academies consensus study on Microbiomes of the Built Environment (2017) and has a special interest in the mold contamination that follows hurricanes and other extreme wet weather events.
In addition, Prof. Bennett has contributed to academic diversity issues, especially focused on women in science. She served as associate vice president for the Office for Women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Rutgers from 2006-2014 and as chair of the National Academies Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine from 2018-2020. She is a past Editor-in-Chief of Mycologia; a past Vice President of the British Mycological Society and the International Union of Microbiological Societies; as well as past President of the American Society for Microbiology and the Society for Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020.
Dr. Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown is the director of the Biodesign Center for Health Through Microbiomes and a Professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and The Built Environment, at Arizona State University. She came to the US with a Fulbright Scholarship to get a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech. She was awarded an NSF CAREER award, was selected Fulton Engineering Exemplar Faculty, in 2020 she was awarded Arizona Researcher of the year by AZBio and has been recognized as highly cited researcher in her field by Web of Science in 2020 and 2021. She has secured funding for her research from many federal agencies including NIH, DoE, DoD, and NSF. She is a pioneer in research on gut microbiome and autism. She is author of 9 patents and more than 130 peer-reviewed publications. She specializes on molecular microbial ecology for bioremediation, the use of microbial systems for bioenergy production, and the human intestinal microbial ecology and its relationship to obesity, bariatric surgery, metabolism, and autism.
Lutgarde Raskin earned her B.S. and M.S. in engineering and her B.S. in economics from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. In 1993, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. From 1993-2005, she was a member of the faculty of the University of Illinois. Since 2005, she has been a member of the faculty of the University of Michigan where she currently holds the Altarum Institute/ERIM Russell O’Neal Endowed Professorship. In her own words, Lutgarde Raskin says, I am inspired by the complexity of the microbial world and the astonishing progress we have made in the field of microbial ecology over the past few decades. This progress continuously motivates me to rethink engineered systems so we can better harness the power of microorganisms to treat water and recover resources from waste streams. Most of the research projects my team and I work on strive to understand and improve various aspects of the engineered water cycle microbiome to improve human health using sustainable design approaches. We especially focus on resource recovery from waste streams and on microbial aspects of drinking water systems including biofiltration, disinfection, distribution and building plumbing biostability.
Thomas Sharpton’s research is broadly directed towards ascertaining how the commensal gut microbiome mediates human health. Motivated by the global chronic disease epidemic, Dr. Sharpton seeks to determine if recent changes in human lifestyle and exposure have disrupted the gut microbiome’s contribution to physiology. To address the complexity of this problem, his research team develops and employs high-throughput systems biology tools – including computational, experimental, and analytical methods – that rapidly disentangle the mechanisms through which the gut microbiome links to and drives health. These efforts include the development of computational and data resources for the analysis of metagenomes, statistical approaches to model microbiome data, and experimental techniques in in vitro and in vivo model systems, especially zebrafish. His research also frequently applies evolutionary considerations to the analysis of gut microbiome data, following the hypothesis that chronic disease emerges in part because human physiology has evolved to depend upon essential microbiome functions that modern lifestyle disrupts. His laboratory collaborates broadly to address these questions and has explored a variety of disease considerations, ranging from inflammatory bowel disease in adults to childhood mental health.
Dr. Paul Turner is the Rachel Carson Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at Yale University, and Microbiology faculty member at Yale School of Medicine. He obtained a BA in Biology (1988) from University of Rochester, a PhD in Microbial Evolution (1995) from Michigan State University, and did postdocs at National Institutes of Health, University of Valencia in Spain, and University of Maryland-College Park, before joining Yale in 2001. Turner previously served as Director of Graduate Studies and Chair of EEB, and as Interim Dean of Science. He currently serves as Director of the Center for Phage Biology and Therapy at Yale, and also directs Yale’s Quantitative Biology Institute. Dr. Turner studies evolutionary genetics of viruses, particularly phages (bacteria-specific viruses) that infect bacterial pathogens and RNA viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, and researches the use of phages to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial diseases. He is very active in science-communication outreach to the general public, and is involved in the Yale National Initiative where faculty collaborate with K-12 teachers to improve STEMM education in underserved public schools. Dr. Turner’s current service includes the National Science Foundation’s Bio Advisory Committee and President-elect of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. His honors include Fellowships in the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and American Academy of Microbiology.