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. Currently, Professor Gilbert is the Director of the Microbiome Center and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago. 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 Bernabe

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.


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.


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.

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 google scholar.

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


Haitao Wang

Ph.D. Candidate

Haitao is currently a member of the lab as a visiting student to the University of Chicago. Primarily, his work centers around understanding the microbial ecology of urban greenspace soils, with the intent to reveal the impact of anthropological stresses, such as land utilizations and population changes, on the deep soil communities. He graduated from Sichuan Agricultural University in China in 2011 with a degree in Biology Science. He then went on to attend the Xiamen University in China for his MD study in microbiology. Since 2013, he has become a Ph.D. student in Xiamen University where his studies were mainly related with microbial ecology in the mangrove and urban soils of the area. His publications can be found here.

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. 

Elizabeth Ziegler

Graduate Student


Elizabeth graduated from University of Texas at Dallas in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Public Health. While there, her undergraduate research project examined horizontal gene transfer and antiseptic-induced stress response in pathogenic Enterococcus species. Additionally, she spent time in Houston, TX, working with the Public Health Department’s West Nile surveillance team and spent a summer as a CDC Foundation fellow aiding in the design of training materials for the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) Program there. She is interested in the one health perspective as well as exploring the microbiome’s contribution to wildlife health and disease crossover in native species. 


Sophia Carryl

Graduate Student

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.

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Neil Gottel

Lab Manager

Neil is the lab manager for the Gilbert Lab. Prior to joining University of Chicago, he worked at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. As a student, he attended the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign and the University of Texas in Austin. As a researcher, he maintains interests in both microbial ecology and synthetic biology projects throughout the lab. 

Lauren Cralle

Research Technician

Lauren graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Psychobiology. Since graduations, she has been working in the Gilbert Lab with a joint appointment between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Her interests in the microbiome began with studies of the gut-brain axis but has since expanded to include ecological impacts of microbial communities and the impact of microbiome research in medicine. Through her time in the Gilbert Lab, she hopes to maintain a high regard for research throughout her future endeavors as a medical student. 



Wyatt Arnold


Research Technician

Wyatt is graduated from the University of Chicago with a double major in Biology and Environmental Science. Under the guidance of Neil and Jack, he explored the interface between the field of ceramics and biology, adopting a biogeochemical lens to look at the microbial and chemical interactions within clay. Since graduating, he has expanded his interests to multiple facets of the microbiome, gaining experience in robotics, wet lab, and bioinformatics.

Mariana Salas Garcia

Research Technician



Leron Perez

Undergraduate Researcher


Leron is an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Molecular Engineering. He is currently working on community metabolic modelling in coordination with Dr. Pamela Weisenhorn at Argonne National Lab. Additionally, he is interested in applying systems biology and biophysics to remedy today's societal issues and influence global change.




Alexandra Sjaarda

Undergraduate Researcher


Ali Sjaarda is an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago who is interested in human host-microbiome interactions, especially as it related to the gut-brain axis. Currently, she is working on a project exploring the associations between the human microbiome and depression in pregnancy and in new mothers.


Former members

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 - Postdoctoral Research Associate, MIT

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

Maggie Sladek