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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.    

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Sarah M. Allard

Assistant Project Scientist

Sarah received her PhD in Plant Science from the University of Maryland in 2014 and remained at UMD for a postdoctoral fellowship in the Maryland Institute of Applied Environmental Health. Throughout her career, she has maintained a focus on microbial ecology, food safety, and environmental sustainability. After receiving her B.A. in Biology from Haverford College in 2009, she began an ORISE fellowship in the Division of Microbiology at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. At FDA, she conducted environmental sampling for foodborne pathogen Salmonella enterica and evaluated a food safety biological control agent. As a graduate student at the University of Maryland, her dissertation work explored the influence of farming practices and environmental conditions on plant microbiomes in the complex agricultural environment. As part of the CONSERVE team based in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow and Assistant Program Manager. There, she developed a deep interest in water reuse for agriculture, and her research primarily focused on characterizing the microbiomes of nontraditional irrigation water sources including surface water and reclaimed wastewater. Sarah actively participated in farmer and community outreach, coordinated a multi-institution 2-year sampling effort, directed the CONSERVE Summer Intern Program, and led an educational trip to the Middle East. In her current role, Sarah is interested in exploring how microbiome research can be harnessed to support environmental sustainability and safe, productive food systems. She is also committed to helping students pursuing microbiome research prepare a diverse skillset to enable effective interdisciplinary research and communication. More information can be found on her website, and her publications can be seen here.

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.

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Holly Lutz

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Lutz attained a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University in 2016 where she studied malarial parasites in Afrotropical animals. She is a postdoc in the Gilbert Lab and research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History, using both field and lab-based approaches to study microbial symbionts in a diverse range of hosts, from Afrotropical bats and birds to cephalopods. She is currently exploring connections between microbes and host phylogeny, ecology, and eukaryotic parasitism. She is also involved in research addressing the role of bacteria in human diseases including Alzheimers, depression, and anxiety. Additional interests include the evolution and ecology of malarial parasites and related haemosporidia, and biotic inventories of threatened ecosystems in the Afrotropics. More information and a list of publications can be found on her website.

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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 (DAAD) from University of Delhi, India and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany (2016). During her PhD, she studied microbial community dynamics at two extreme environments- hexachlorocyclohexane dumpsite and Himalayan hot springs at Manikaran, India using metagenomics approaches. She joined Gilbert Lab in August, 2016, where she is interested in understanding the close association among microbial communities, human health and built environments. She is specifically involved in understanding the relationship between human microbiome and different clinical manifestations such as asthma, chronic depression, breast cancer, malignant pleural effusions, cerebral cavernous malformations, and seasonal allergic rhinitis. Her publications can be found here.

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Megan S Thoemmes

Postdoctoral Scholar

Megan received her PhD in 2019 from the Applied Ecology department at North Carolina State University, under the direction of Dr Rob Dunn. Her work focuses on the microbes and arthropods found on and around mammal bodies, including those associated with humans, chimpanzees, and Key Largo woodrats. She is interested in how the built environment shapes species interactions and what factors drive differences among mammal structures, as well as how those differences affect individual health and well-being. In the Gilbert lab, Megan primarily studies hospital environments and how the construction and use of those spaces influences human exposures to pathogenic bacteria. Previous work includes the development of the Meet Your Mites project and work on the Wild Life of Our Homes project. Her publications can be found here.

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Gertrude Ecklu-Mensah

Postdoctoral Scholar

Gertrude earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry (2017) in a sandwich program funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA), from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Ghana. Her research focused on severe malaria pathogenesis in children, specifically investigating ICAM-1 binding PfEMP1 in pediatric cerebral malaria. Gertrude was awarded a one year Global Health NIH/Fogarty Postdoctoral Fellowship under the VECD consortium in 2018 to study malaria transmission biology at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana. Beginning August 2019, she joined the Gilbert lab to understand the biological mechanisms used by the gut microbiota to influence the human host metabolism particularly during malnutrition. Additionally, she is interested in exploring broadly the interactions between diet and the microbiota-gut-brain axis, and potential interconnections of the gut microbiota in malaria and non-communicable diseases.

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Promi Das

Postdoctoral Scholar

Promi joined Gilbert Lab in August 2019. She earned her doctorate degree with specialization in Systems Biology (May 2019) from the Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden. Her Ph.D. thesis title is “Mining human gut microbial metabolism through in vitro and in silico approaches” funded by an EU-research project MetaCardis. Before her Ph.D., she received her Master of Technology (M.Tech.) in Biotechnology (2015) from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, where she conducted her Master Thesis Research in RWTH Aachen University, Germany under the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD-IIT) Scholarship Program. Also, she gained her Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Microbiology (2013) from the University of Calcutta, with summer internship from the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), Kolkata.

Her journey of research interests aims to contribute towards the shift of Human Microbiome Breakthrough into Translational Science with interdisciplinary teamwork and collaborations. To read or follow her publications, click 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.

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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

Ph.D. Student

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 giganteus. 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 at its University of Chicago location. He is now at UCSD, in Scripp’s marine biology graduate program. His publications can be found here.

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Emily Kunselman

Ph.D. Student

Emily graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in Marine Biology. As an undergraduate, she completed her honor’s thesis on the microbiome of the Olympia oyster in the Puget Sound. She is diving into graduate school at Scripps Institution of Oceanography with the intention of earning a PhD in Marine Biology. Emily is interested in the interaction between marine organisms and microbes, with a focus on the role the microbiome plays in infection and disease.

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Mariana Salas Garcia

Lab Manager

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.


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Sho Kodera

Staff Research Associate II

Sho graduated from UC San Diego with a B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. He then obtained his M.S. under Dr. Stuart Sandin at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, focusing on coral reef ecology and life history. He also worked as a staff research associate with the 100 Island Challenge project at Scripps, where he conducted extensive field surveys and data collection in various tropical coral reef communities. Sho has spent over 280 hours underwater conducting scientific SCUBA dives in remote islands across the Pacific and the Caribbean. He now hopes to transition to research in marine microbial ecology; specific research interests involve microbial communities in extreme marine environments.

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Mary Buschmann

Grant Writer and Coordinator

Mary holds a BA in Biology from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, MI, and a PhD in Cell and Cancer Biology from the University of Cincinnati. She did her postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago as a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellow, studying gut epithelial barrier function. Prior to joining the Gilbert group, Mary spent almost 5 years overseeing the Chicago Pancreatic Cancer Initiative at the University of Chicago, which was a clinical research program studying ways to use patient genomic, clinical, and demographic data and personalized cell line models to improve understanding and treatment of the disease. Concurrent with this, she managed the University of Chicago’s Department of Surgery grant and clinical research portfolio. In the Gilbert lab, Mary utilizes these experiences to coordinate collaborative research programs, prepare funding applications and research articles, and manage human research regulatory affairs for the group.

Previous Labmates

Cesar Cardona - Second Genome, CA

Alyson Yee - MD Student, University of Chicago Medical School

Tom Kuntz - University Of Chicago

Elle Hill - Research Assistant, University of Chicago

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 - Cleveland Clinic

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 - Marquette University

Nicole Scott - Biota Inc

Kassandra Brown - Princeton/Yale

Daniel Smith - Baylor College of Medicine