Chicago Fellowships

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Our Microbial Planet

“Recent discoveries have generated a new view of the biological world, one that recognizes that plants and animals are actually meta-organisms containing one or many microbial species. Inanimate surfaces, from rocks to keyboards, are likewise swarming with microbial life.

These microbial communities help define the health and integrity of their living or inanimate hosts. Microbiomes influence the behavior of diverse ecosystems, with effects on human health, climate change, food security, and other factors. Imbalanced microbiomes have been associated with human chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma; local ecological disruptions such as the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico; reductions in agricultural productivity; and disruptions in weather and atmospheric conditions related to climate change.

The National Microbiome Initiative will focus on comparative study of microbiomes across different ecosystems to seek organizing principles that shape all microbiomes.”

– Jo Handelsman, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on the launch of the National Microbiome Initiative in May 2016.

The Microbiome Center is a partnering organization in the National Microbiome Initiative.

New in 2017! Up to six fellows will be selected to spend an additional four days in Chicago after their Hand-On Course in Woods Hole. The 2017 Chicago Fellows will interact with researchers affiliated with The Microbiome Center, a unique partnership that seeks to define the fundamental principles of how microbial populations operate across all environments. The center’s partners (University of Chicago, Marine Biological Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory) bring wide-ranging expertise from the spectrum of microbial research, from medical studies to sub-seafloor excavations. Through special access to scientists and their research facilities, the Chicago Fellows will gain a comprehensive understanding of the major advances and outstanding challenges in microbial research today (see box).  The Chicago Fellowships will run June 11-14, 2017.

Among the people and resources the Chicago Fellows will interact with are:

  • Leaders in the study of host-microbe interactions relating to human health and disease (University of Chicago Medicine)
  • Studies of animal-environment microbiome interactions at Shedd Aquarium, which houses more than 1,500 aquatic species from around the world
  • Researchers on the co-evolution and interactions of animals and their microbiomes at The Field Museum, one of the top five natural history collections in the world
  • At Argonne National Laboratory, the fellows will see some of the world’s fastest supercomputers in action, take part in state-of-the-art genomic sequencing, and go behind the scenes at the Advanced Photon Source, which generates high-energy X-ray beams for scientific research.

The program will include free time for fellows to explore the dynamic city of Chicago.

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