We can officially announce that Dr. Peter Bergholz, assistant professor of microbial genomics and ecology, is a CAREER Award winner. This is an important NSF grant (within the Division of Environmental Biology/Evolutionary Ecology program) intended to support the development of research programs that focus on connecting teaching and research.
For instance, Dr. Bergholz’s project, “Differentiating mechanisms of ecological divergence in sympatric microbial populations using an integrated population genomic approach,” will involve 10 undergraduates, 2 PhD students, a Master’s student, and a postdoctoral researcher. The research arm of the project will involve field work—collecting soil bacteria, sequencing their genomes, and identifying the genetic changes that occur in response to changing environmental conditions—and software development “to simulate the evolution of bacteria in natural environments like agricultural landscapes.” The overall goal: “to predict how the biodiversity of bacteria is generated and maintained,” Dr. Bergholz says.
The teaching arm of the project will involve developing a vertical platform of evolutionary genomics lessons that can be taught anywhere. The core of these “teachable units” will be the scientific method; therefore, as sophomores, students will conduct bench-top research, sequencing genomes and collecting data that they will use as juniors and seniors to build models of evolution. They will use their sequence data to identify the best models.
“Understanding how bacteria evolve, and being able to predict it, has been a challenge that microbiologists have been trying to solve for hundreds of years,” Dr. Bergholz says. “Our research takes an integrated approach in which we combine laboratory and field studies to gain greater insight about the development of biodiversity in bacterial populations struggling to survive in nature.”
Congratulations, Dr. Bergholz! Go team!
Visit the Bergholz lab site to find out more.