Jack A Gilbert

Principal Investigator

Dr. Jack A. Gilbert earned his Ph.D. from Nottingham University, UK, in 2002 and received his postdoctoral training in Canada at Queens University. Subsequently, he returned to the UK in 2005  to work for Plymouth Marine Laboratory as a senior scientist until his move to Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in 2010. Professor Gilbert was the Director of the Microbiome Center and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago. Currently, Dr. Gilbert is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego. He is also Group Leader for Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory, Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History, Scientific Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and the Yeoh Ghim Seng Visiting Professorship in Surgery at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Gilbert uses molecular analysis to test fundamental hypotheses in microbial ecology. He has authored more than 250 peer reviewed publications and book chapters on metagenomics and approaches to ecosystem ecology. He is the founding Editor in Chief of mSystems journal. In 2014, he was recognized on Crain’s Business Chicago’s 40 Under 40 List, and in 2015, he was listed as one of the 50 most influential scientists by Business Insider, and in the Brilliant Ten by Popular Scientist. In 2016, he won the Altemeier Prize from the Surgical Infection Society, and the WH Pierce Prize from the Society for Applied Microbiology for research excellence. He also co-authored “Dirt is Good” published in 2017, a popular science guide to the microbiome and children’s health.  He serves on the board of the Genomic Standards Consortium and is the primary investigator for various research ventures, including the Earth Microbiome Project, the Home Microbiome Project, the Gulf Microbial Modeling Project, the Hospital Microbiome Project, and the Chicago River Microbiome Project.    

Beatriz Penalver Bernab

Arnold O Beckman Postdoctoral Scholar

Beatriz holds a Chemical Engineering B.S. from the University of Murcia in Spain, a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Northwestern University in Chicago. Beatriz worked for several years as a Polymer Process Development Engineer with General Electric in her home country of Spain as well as within the United States. Beatriz is interested in understanding multicellular dynamic biologic complex systems in regenerative medicine. She is currently looking to apply her engineering and data science experience in understanding the complex relationships between mental health, endocrine system, and gut microbiome Her publications can be seen in here.


Holly Lutz

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Lutz attained a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University in 2016 and is currently a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago in conjunction with the Field Museum of Natural History. Through her initiation of the Bat Microbiome Project, she has begun studying the ecology and evolution of host-microbe interactions over a broad range of East African bat species. Additionally, her other projects include assessing the effects of habitat quality on ectoparasite and malaria prevalence in African bats and examining the influence of bat microbes on immunity and viral replication in mouse models. More information and a list of publications can be found on her website.


Anukriti Sharma

Posdoctoral Scholar

Anukriti received her Master’s degree in Biotechnology and Bioinformatics from California State University Channel Islands including one year of CIRM fellowship at University of California Santa Barbara (2013). She got her PhD in Microbiology under Bi-national Sandwich Program funded by German Academic Exchange Services, from University of Delhi India and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Germany (2016). During her PhD, she studied microbial community dynamics at two extreme environments- HexaChlorocycloHexane (HCH) dumpsite and Himalayan hot springs at Manikaran, India using metagenomics approaches. She joined Gilbert Lab in August, 2017, where she is interested in understanding the role of human microbiome and microbial exposure in asthma, seasonal allergies, depression, lung sarcoidosis, and liver metastasis. She is also involved in studying the close association among microbial communities, human health and built environments.  Her publications can be seen in here.


Jarrad Marcell-Hampton

Research Coordinator, UIC Ph.D. Candidate

Jarrad is currently working in tandem with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Argonne National Lab to cultivate a comprehensive understanding of the methodology required to employ the use of micro biome data and samples to the forensic world. In understanding touch DNA and the various manners in which our microbiota interact with the environment surrounding us, the scientific community will be able to utilize such specific data to profile likely suspects and to match biological signatures once a suspect has been apprehended. Moreover, he continues to work on his PhD while coordinating various research projects throughout the labs. His publications can be seen in here.

Cesar Cardona

Ph.D. Candidate

Cesar is a Ph.D candidate from the Biophysical Sciences PhD Program at the University of Chicago, and a Student Researcher at Argonne National Labs. He works with Dr. Gilbert in Environmental Microbial Ecology and Dr Henry in Computational Microbial Metabolism labs. Cesar seeks to integrate Ecology and Biochemistry perspectives in characterizing microbial communities. In particular, seeking to combine metabolic modeling with co-occurrence and ecological networks theory to better understand stability and dynamics patterns in different microbial ecosystems. Interested in applications in built environments, bio-remediation, extreme environments and astrobiology. Prior undergraduate work in Computer Science at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Master’s degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Memphis, TN. He is a 2014 NSF GRFP fellow and 2016 NASA astrobiology summer school scholar. His publications can be seen in here.

Alyson Yee

MD/Ph.D. Candidate

Alyson is an MD/PhD student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and the Committee on Microbiology. She graduated in 2012 from Tufts University with a B.S. in biology and French, then went on to work at the National Institutes of Health as a post-baccalaureate researcher for one year. Additionally, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to study the microbial ecology of cheese at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Rennes, France from 2013-2014. Alyson joined the Gilbert lab in October 2015 with the intent to explore how the early life microbiome contributes to human health, particularly in preterm infants. Her publications can be found here

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Thomas Kuntz

Ph.D. Candidate

Thomas decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry after graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in Chemistry including an honor thesis on gas phase spectroscopy. He is keen to apply scientific concepts from across diverse fields to microbiome studies and is particularly interested in the connection between the gut microbiome and the neural networks of the brain, as he explores these interconnections through his current research experiments and endeavors. 

Sophia Carry

Ph.D. Candidate

Sophia graduated summa cum laude from CUNY Lehman College with a B.A. in Biology in 2015. There she investigated the effects of early environmental stressors on adult decision making in a lab colony of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) with Dr. Maryam Bamshad for her honors thesis at Lehman College. Currently, she is a second year doctoral student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology studying wildlife-microbe interactions in three populations of house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Her primary focus lies in discovering how differences in microbial communities due to environmental variations impact changes in the endocrine system, morphology, and behavior of house sparrows. Her end goal is to understand how microbes can influence fitness and shape the evolution of wildlife animals that are adapting to an increasingly urban world. Her publications can be found here.


Neil Gottel

Lab Manager

Neil graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Integrative Biology, where he studied the nitrogen fixing microbes living within the potential biofuel crop Miscanthus giganteusi. He then studied the microbiome of various poplar tree species at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, then attended graduate school at the University of Texas Austin. He returned to Chicago to work at Argonne National Laboratory, and joined the Gilbert lab as a technician. After surviving the Technician Battle Royale, he became the lab manager of the lab at its University of Chicago location. He is now in San Diego setting up the new lab and preparing for studies in marine biology. His publications can be found here.


Mariana Salas Garcia

Staff Research Associate II

Mariana graduated from Judson University with a B.A. in Biochemistry and Pre-Medicine. Since her undergrad, she has started working as a Microbiology lab assistant. This has grown her interest in the microbial world and the connection between the environment and human health. She joined the Gilbert lab in order to dive more into microbiome research. Mariana is hoping to bring all of her learning experience to the next step in Medical School in her hometown Costa Rica and develop more research there. Her publications can be found here.


Alexandria Vangelatos

Undergraduate Researcher

Alex is an undergraduate, Biology major at the University of Chicago. She is currently working alongside Holly Lutz on an exploration of the post-mortem human microbiome (the thanatomicrobiome). In addition, she is interested in studying the human gut microbiome and the effects of stress and anxiety disorders on the gut’s microbial composition.

Former members

Leron Perez - Research Assistant, University of Chicago

Wyatt Arnold - PhD Student, Yale University

Lauren Cralle - MD Student, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Haitao Wang - Postdoctoral Research University of Greifswald, Germany

Na Fei - Postdoctoral Research Chang Lab, University of Chicago

Melissa Dsouza - Commense Health, Boston MA

Simon Lax - Postdoctoral Research Associate, MIT 

Miles Richardson - PhD Student, Columbia University

Naseer Sangwan - The BioCollective

Pamela Weisenhorn - Argonne National Laboratory

Sean M. Gibbons - Assistant Professor, University of Washigton

Kim M. Handley - University of Aukland

Victor S. Pylro - Argonne National Laboratory

Chris Marshall - University of Pittsburg

Nicole Scott - Biota Inc

Kassandra Brown - Princeton/Yale

Daniel Smith - Baylor College of Medicine