Who am I?
I am a scientist with a deep appreciation for the complexity of life. I studied computer engineering in Turkey between 1998 and 2002. My near decade-long wandering through various territories of computation ended when I serendipitously discovered the fascinating world of microbes while working at the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans as a PhD student in 2010. Today, besides being an MBL Fellow, I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago, the Department of Medicine, where I design algorithms and experiments to better understand microbes and their ecology.
What do I do?
I combine my interest in computation and microbiology to investigate microbial life. My research largely focuses on understanding the diversity and functioning of naturally occurring microbial communities in environments ranging from the human gastrointestinal tract and oral cavity to sewage, oceans, and soils. My familiarity with cryptography, signal processing, machine learning, and software development practices makes me greet large and noisy datasets with open arms: I develop analytical approaches and visualization strategies to make sense of high-throughput sequencing data for marker genes, metagenomes, and metatranscriptomes.
Why do I come to the MBL?
The MBL has played a critical role in my journey. Between 2011 and 2015, first as a post-doctoral scientist under the supervision of Mitchell L. Sogin and then as an Assistant Research Scientist at the Bay Paul Center, I was lucky enough to work with, and learn from, the year-round scientists of the MBL. Their persistence in scientific excellence, rigor in scientific method, and modesty at communicating their remarkable discoveries were major influences on my view of science, as well as the scientist. Researchers from all over the world who gather in Woods Hole during the summer months broadened my vision about the importance of interdisciplinary work and the unique opportunities that emerge from it. I come to the MBL to continue my education, take part in its dynamic and inspiring community of scientists, and contribute as best as I can to its mission of excellence in science and education.
What do I plan to do/work on at the MBL?
I have been working with multiple groups at the MBL and I plan to build even stronger bridges. In the long term, I wish to see the MBL as a hub for high-resolution microbiome research, where genome-resolved holistic computational approaches meet state-of-the-art molecular techniques and imaging to study microbes, and the environments in which they occur, at scales that would allow us to reach beyond “associations” and start investigating “mechanisms”. I wish to see the MBL become an authority on marine model organisms for microbiome research, and a frontier of host-microbe interactions, where the deep investigations of microbial communities are coupled with fundamental questions regarding the development, physiology, and the behavior of hosts with which they interact. Besides working towards these goals, I plan to continue teaching at MBL’s summer courses and explore ways to expand its course repertoire.
See Meren’s website: http://merenlab.org/