Manipulating human-associated microbial communities
The surfaces of the human body are colonized by trillions of bacteria. Our lab seeks to understand, predict, and manipulate how these communities behave over time. In particular, we are fascinated by the process in which hundreds of bacterial species collapse when their hosts fall ill. We explore how ensuing patterns of recolonization can be compared to successions seen in much larger ecosystems, like forests regrowing after a wildfire. And, we examine how bacteria interact with one another, with the goal of introducing probiotics into humans that can reshape entire bacterial communities. To perform our studies, we borrow tools and theory from microbiology, ecology, computer science, and biological engineering. Ultimately, we expect understanding how microbial populations on the human body resist and respond to disturbances will yield new insights into the dynamics of complex ecosystems, as well as new therapies for improving human health.