Research and Innovation Scholar
Interspecies Interactions and the Evolution of the Skin Microbiome
Eric J. Alm
In order to engineer the human microbiome for health and wellness, we need a better understanding of how individual bacterial strains adapt to their host and how this evolution influences community formation. The goal of this project is to characterize the niche range, migration rates, and intrapersonal evolution of individual bacterial species in the human skin microbiome. We will use fine-scaled sampling of sebaceous skin over space and time, genomic sequencing, and evolutionary approaches. In particular, I will use culture-independent approaches to assess community diversity, and compare this to whole-genome sequencing data of single species, in order to understand how the community influences the success of particular mutations and strains and vice versa. Establishing a framework for studying microbial communities in depth and with high spatial resolution can help accelerate future research of the microbiome as a whole.
The past three years that I spent in the Runstadler Lab studying avian influenza surveillance provided me a great opportunity to learn a wide range of techniques and to develop my skill set. It also sparked my curiosity about the quickly advancing field of studying the microbiome in relation to human health, making this SuperUROP particularly interesting and exciting to me.