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Confirmed speakers and provisional titles for the 2022 Congress on Gastrointestinal Function program (1:30 p.m. Monday, April 11, through 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13) are as follows:
Other Invited Plenary Speakers
Monday Morning Special Session
The topic selected for the Monday morning special session (April 11, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) is "Community assembly – From theory to practice." Synthetic microbial communities hold the potential of enabling us to understand the basic building blocks of microbiomes, their trophic interactions, and functional consequences in gut microbial communities as well as in other environments. This special session will explore novel technologies for isolating microbial components to construct such communities, basic rules for their assembly, and their usage for answering critical questions in research and application.
With this concept in mind, the following speakers have been confirmed:
Invited Speaker Bios
Martin Polz is a professor at the Center for Microbiology and Environmental System Science at the University of Vienna where he joined the faculty in 2020. He previously spent over 20 years at the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering where he rose to the rank of full professor. His research interests are focused on the evolution and ecology of microbes with a major focus on genomics and population-level processes of environmental and pathogenic bacteria. After obtaining an MS degree in zoology from the University of Vienna, Polz moved to Harvard University for his PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology, after which he joined the faculty at MIT in 1998.
Polz has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, including 10 in Science, Nature, and Cell, and has recently edited a book on microbial population genomics. His teaching covers courses on microbial ecology and evolution at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Service activities include membership in the search committee for the Dean of Engineering at MIT, and the chair of the search committee for the Department Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering and for the Director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences. Polz also served as the chair of the MIT Joint Program in Biological Oceanography and co-chair of the MIT Microbiology program. Polz has also served as editor for Environmental Microbiology and Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews and is on the editorial board of Microbiome.
Polz is a fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology and recipient of the Eli Lilly and Company-Elanco Research Award, the oldest and most prestigious prize awarded by the American Society for Microbiology. At MIT, he received the Frank E. Perkins Award for excellence in graduate advising.
Ophelia Venturelli is an assistant professor in biochemistry, chemical and biological engineering, bacteriology, and biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Venturelli laboratory focuses on understanding and engineering microbiomes using systems and synthetic biology to address grand challenges facing society in human health, agriculture, and bioprocessing. Venturelli began her appointment in 2016 after completing a Life Sciences Research Foundation Fellowship at the University of California-Berkeley in the laboratory of Adam P. Arkin. Venturelli's postdoctoral research focused on combining high-throughput experimental data with dynamic computational models to decipher microbial interactions shaping assembly of synthetic human gut microbiomes. She received her PhD in biochemistry and biophysics in 2013 from Caltech with Richard M. Murray (co-advised by Hana El-Samad at the University of California, San Francisco), where she studied single-cell dynamics and the role of feedback loops in a metabolic gene regulatory network. Venturelli has received numerous awards for her cross-disciplinary research including the Shaw Scientist Award (2017), Army Research Office Young Investigator Award (2017), NIH Outstanding Investigator Award (2017), and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Innovation Award (2019).
Thomas Clavel has been working in microbiome research for approximately 20 years. He studied agricultural sciences in France until 2002, including a master's thesis project on the molecular analysis of human fecal microbiota in the lab of Joël Doré (INRAE, Jouy-en-Josas, France). He then obtained his PhD in microbiology in 2006 at the Institute of Human Nutrition under the supervision of Michael Blaut (Potsdam, Germany). Thereafter, Clavel stayed for 11 years at the Technical University of Munich (Germany), first as a postdoc and then as junior group leader under the mentorship of Dirk Haller. Since 2017, he has had his own independent research group at the University Hospital of RWTH Aachen (Germany), with an excellent team of young researchers and students and great colleagues in close surroundings (e.g., Oliver Pabst and Mathias Hornef).
Itzhak Mizrahi is a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev leading the microbial ecogenomics group. Mizrahi's research constitutes a unique approach in the area of microbial ecology of the gut microbiome of vertebrate animals with his favorite research model of ruminant microbiomes. In this field, Mizrahi has made several discoveries that earned him a bacterial species named after him (Prevotella mizrahii), and the Schilo Prize for outstanding scientists from the Israeli Society of Microbiology. Mizrahi was elected as a fellow of the European Academy of Microbiology, the National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science for exceptional young scientists, as well as a fellow of the Israeli Young Academy of Science. Mizrahi has won two prestigious European Research Council grants—both starting and consolidator grants. He also serves as senior editor of journals in the field of microbial ecology, such as ISME Communications. At the national level, Mizrahi serves as the Israeli Ambassador of the International Society of Microbial Ecology, where he promotes and strengthens the discipline of microbial ecology as broadly as possible, through a wide range of activities.
Microbial ecologist and physiologist Phil B. Pope leads the Microbial Ecology and Meta-Omics (MEMO) group and has more than 15 years' experience using multi-omic tools to deconvolute the intimate genomic and physiological relationships between microbial populations within complex microbiomes that are integral to gut function, health, and nutrition of bilaterian animals such as humans and production animals. Pope has a BSc from Griffith University (Queensland, Australia), majoring in physical mathematics, with honors in environmental microbiology (2003); a PhD in metagenomics from Griffith University (2007); and postdoc experience at CSIRO with Mark Morrison (2007–2010). Pope moved to Europe in 2010 as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Incoming Fellow with renowned enzymologist Vincent Eijsink and started his group with an ERC starting grant in 2014. Pope's current research seeks to expand these approaches to envelop additional "molecular layers" from the animal holobiont (i.e., host genome, transcriptome, and proteome), a concept otherwise known as "holo-omics." Principal investigator of the Novo Nordisk Fonden fellowship "SuPAcow" and coordinator for the ERA-Net project "ImprovAFish," which both seek to modulate the feed–microbiome–host axis in cows and fish, respectively, Phil also makes central scientific and management contributions to large national and European collaborative efforts including Work Package leadership roles in two ~10 mEUR Horizon 2020 projects (HoloRuminat and 3D'omics), which are focused on animal–microbiome interactions. He has authored 70+ peer-reviewed articles that have attracted 4,500+ citations (i10-index: 60, h-index: 32).
Antton Alberdi is an associate professor at the Center for Evolutionary Hologenomics in the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He leads a group of 16 people researching animal–microbiota interactions using multi-omic methodologies. He is the coordinator of the Horizon 2020 project 3D'omics and the scientific manager of the Horizon 2020 project HoloFood. He is also the founder of the Earth Hologenome Initiative. All of these large projects implement hologenomic methodologies to address basic ecological and evolutionary as well as applied scientific questions. The range of expertise of the Alberdi Lab includes multi-omics data generation and analysis, animal experimentation, gut-on-a-chip organoids, and laser micro-dissection, among others.
Jo Handelsman is the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and a Vilas Research Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She previously served as a science advisor to President Barack Obama. Her research focuses on the role of small molecules on the structure and function of microbial communities. In the course of this work, Handelsman has discovered several new antibiotics from soil bacteria by traditional culture-based methods and metagenomics. She is the founder of Tiny Earth, a consortium of college instructors and students across the world dedicated to discovering new antibiotics from soil bacteria. She has just released her book, A World Without Soil.
The research of the Wrighton Laboratory focuses on interrogating the diverse microbial metabolisms that modulate human and soil health, govern greenhouse gas emissions, and can be harnessed for enhanced recovery from hydrocarbon systems. We use a combination of in-situ multi-omics to interrogate metabolic cross-feedings in complex microbiomes and validate these omics-enabled hypotheses with targeted laboratory experiments. This information is synthesized into accessible frameworks or models to better forecast the stability and impacts of microbial metabolism under current and changing environmental conditions.
Eric Martens received his PhD in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working with Heidi Goodrich-Blair on the biology of the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema carpocapsae and its bacterial symbiont, Xenorhabdus nematophila. He then trained with Jeffrey I. Gordon at the Washington University School of Medicine, investigating the physiology of beneficial human gut bacteria, especially members of Bacteroidetes and their interactions with complex carbohydrates. His current research interests include investigating the roles of gut bacteria in human digestive physiology, the gut microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer, genetic exchange between environmental and gut bacteria, and the mechanisms through which gut bacteria break down dietary fiber polysaccharides and mucin glycoproteins.
Michelle A. O'Malley is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the associate director of UCSB's Bioengineering Program. She earned a BS in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004 and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2009, where she worked with Anne Robinson to engineer overproduction of membrane proteins in yeast. O'Malley was a USDA-NIFA postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At UCSB, her research group engineers protein synthesis within anaerobes and consortia for sustainable chemical production, bioremediation, and natural product discovery. O'Malley's research has been featured on NPR's Science Friday, the BBC Newshour, the LA Times, and other media outlets. She was named one of the 35 Top Innovators Under 35 in the world by MIT Technology Review in 2015 and one of the 10 Scientists to Watch by Science News in 2019, and is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed on early career scientists by the US government. She is also the recipient of the Allan P. Colburn Award from the AIChE, the ASM Award for Early Career Applied and Biotechnological Research, the AIChE Division 15 Early Career Award, a DOE Early Career Award, an NSF CAREER award, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the ACS BIOT Division Young Investigator Award, an ACS PMSE Division Young Investigator Award, an ACS WCC "Rising Star" Award, and a Hellman Faculty Fellowship. She was elected to the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers in 2020 and is chair-elect of the ACS Division of Biochemical Technology (BIOT).
Mark Rasmussen (retired in 2021) was the director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. He has been involved in a broad range of research related to sustainable agriculture, especially regarding ruminant animals. He continues to work on several research projects related to the impacts of climate change on agriculture. This work includes research on soil carbon dynamics, particularly microbial carbonate precipitation. Rasmussen has a PhD in animal science/microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His other academic degrees include an MBA from Iowa State University, an MS in animal nutrition, and a BS in animal science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He once farmed in Nebraska and has held research positions in industry and at the ARS/USDA National Animal Disease Center (Ames, IA) and at the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (Laurel, MD).