From the Human Microbiome Project to the Earth Microbiome Project

  • Speaker
  • Rob Knight HeadshotRob Knight, Ph.D.Wolfe Family Endowed Chair in Microbiome Research at Rady Children's
    Director, Center for Microbiome Innovation
    Professor of Pediatrics, Bioengineering and Computer Science & Engineering, University of California, San Diego
Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Ave
New York, NY 10010 United States

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5:30 p.m. Doors open

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Lecture and Q&A

This lecture is part of “Microbiomes,” the 2023 lecture series theme in biology. Microscopic. lifeforms live just about everywhere on Earth — in the deep ocean, suspended in the atmosphere and even in our planet’s interior. Microbial communities can even thrive within plants and animals, affecting the biology and biochemistry inside their hosts. On the environmental scale, microbial communities profoundly impact food chains, biogeochemical cycling and climate. This series of talks will explore microbiomes and their roles in specific hosts and environments.
2023 Lecture Series Themes
Biology: Microbiomes
Neuroscience and Autism Science: The Neuroscience of Sleep
Physics: The Third Quantum Revolution
Mathematics and Computer Science: Waves

About Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures

Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite those interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.

The Human Microbiome Project drove an explosion of technologies aimed at understanding the vast array of microbes present throughout our bodies. The resulting ability to scale up DNA sequence data acquisition by a factor of millions brought new insight into the majority of our cells and our genes, in our microbiota and microbiomes respectively. It also revealed major surprises, such as the extent of variation among individuals in terms of the underlying species distributions, the constancy in terms of metabolic function, and the patterns of variation over time.

In this talk, Rob Knight will explore the challenges of applying these techniques to ecosystems across the planet to discover the connections among human, animal and environmental health. By understanding spatial and temporal dynamics of microbial ecosystems — and the relationships among them — researchers are poised to develop fundamentally new ways to picture and decipher health and disease.

About the Speaker

Rob Knight Headshot

Knight is the founding director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation and a professor of pediatrics, bioengineering, and computer science & engineering at UC San Diego, where he is also the Wolfe Family Endowed Chair in Microbiome Research. Knight’s lab has produced many of the software tools and laboratory techniques that enabled high-throughput microbiome science, including QIIME and UniFrac. His work has linked microbes to a range of health conditions, enhanced our understanding of microbes in many environments, and made high-throughput sequencing accessible to thousands of researchers around the world.

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