Microorganisms (Bacteria, Viruses, and Fungi) inhabit nearly every environment on Earth. They are critical components of many ecosystems, but there is so much we don’t yet know about how they interact. I’m fascinated by the human microbiome, its variation across populations, and its role in health and disease. Key questions remain:
- What are the forces involved in controlling the replication, death, and movement of microbes in the body?
- How do our behaviors (diet, stress, exercise, medications, other illnesses, etc.) impact the ability of our resident microbes to survive? How do they impact their interactions with us and others?
- How does the human microbiome organize into communities? How does it interact with other systems, like the immune system and built environment?.
- What are the trans-kingdom interactions at play in the human microbiome? Do they influence disease states?
I use bioinformatics to ask these and other questions of the respiratory and gut microbiomes in the context of inflammatory disease. I am particularly interested in the application of systems-based frameworks and biopsychosocial models to integrate ‘omics’ data with host data for a more complete view of host-environment-microbiome relationships.
Human Respiratory Microbiome in Asthma
Currently, my research in the Huang Microbiome Lab focuses on understanding how the respiratory microbiome is involved in the presentation and pathogenesis of adult asthma. Check out our website to learn more!
Understanding the Academic Job Market
As part of a multi-disciplinary collaboration, I am also working on a project that aims to provide insight into the process of academic job searches. Our work thus far speaks to a need for more transparency in faculty hiring and will be key to better career preparation for graduate and postdoc trainees.
The Microbiome in Mouse Models of IBD
Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC), collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), are chronic inflammatory diseases that greatly reduce quality of life while increasing the risk of developing colorectal cancer. The focus of my graduate work was to study the gut microbiome of mice lacking tumor necrosis factor (TNF)- an inflammatory mediator known to be active in IBD – during Crohn’s-like colitis. We were also interested in the impact of biological factors like age and sex on the variability of the mouse gut microbiome.
Bacteriophage biology is a rapidly advancing field. During my undergraduate training, I isolated, characterized, and annotated the genome of a novel phage, Mycobacteriophage Anaya and conducted research on phage lysogeny and phage-host interactions in termite guts.