Flask crowd

Will Harcombe’s fascination with evolution and ecosystem function adds a dynamic dimension to the quest to better understand — and tap the power of — the microorganisms in our lives.

“Community” means different things to different people. To an urban planner, it’s a neighborhood bustling with people. To a landscape ecologist, it’s the collection of plants and animals that paint a riotous portrait of life on the raw canvas of a barren landscape.

To Will Harcombe, it’s a whole bunch of microbes duking it out — and occasionally teaming up — in an Erlenmeyer flask, or an intestinal tract, or a wastewater treatment plant as they work (evolutionarily speaking) to boost their survival in the moving-target milieu of other microbes working to do the same.

Harcombe, who joined the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the BioTechnology Institute through the Microbial Systems research cluster in December, studies the evolution of cooperation and competition in bacteria and other microorganisms from a molecular perspective. His goal: to understand and be able to quantitatively predict how microbial communities change over time due to the interplay of their constituents’ physiological activities. Read More

Palm trees and population genetics

Professor Anthony Dean talks about his part-time faculty appointment in Southern China.

Tony Dean (EEB/BTI) recently accepted a part-time post at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, where he will set up a second research lab in addition to his current lab at the University of Minnesota. Here, he talks about the excitement and adventure of moving to China, along with some of the challenges he will face.

Read More

Dan Knights joins BTI

The BioTechnology Institute welcomes Dan Knights, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Dan received his PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a certificate in Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology from the University’s BioFrontiers Institute. He comes to the University of Minnesota following a postdoctorate fellowship at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His research at the University of Minnesota focuses on the functional characterization of complex host-microbe interactions, including predictive modeling of those interactions across variations in the host genome and microbial communities.

Brandy Toner joins the BioTechnology Institute

An Assistant Professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate, Brandy earned her PhD from the University of California-Berkley and completed a postdoctorate fellowship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Her research at the University of Minnesota focuses on microbe-mineral interaction and the bio/geochemical cycling of metals in natural and contaminated environments.

Chad Myers joins the BioTechnology Institute

Chad Myers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, joined the BioTechnology Institute in 2013. Chad earned his PhD from the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University in the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. Myers’ research focuses primarily on gene interaction and computational biology. He was named the McKnight Land-Grant Professor in 2011, and was also recently granted the National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award (CAREER). We congratulate Chad Myers on his achievement, and welcome him to the BioTechnology Institute.