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Microbiome Center Announces Inaugural Interdisciplinary Innovation Fellows
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 09/28/2022

The Penn State Microbiome Center has named six recipients for its inaugural Interdisciplinary Innovation Fellowships (IIF) program, which aims to promote collaborative training opportunities for center members.

The program was established earlier this year to enable recipients to expand their expertise and studies through short-term training experiences in the laboratory of another center faculty member or external colleague, with the goals of expanding the creative capabilities of the community and facilitating collaborative discovery among Microbiome Center members, with an emphasis on connecting traditionally "siloed" units.

"The Interdisciplinary Innovation Fellowships offer an opportunity to catapult Microbiome Center research and reputation forward as one of the largest and most active centers in the field," said Microbiome Center Director Seth Bordenstein. At their core, these awards unsilo the microbiome sciences across the units and pillars of Penn State and beyond, spanning eight academic affiliations, three colleges, and three external universities including one international institution."

There are two types of IIFs: internal fellowships permit trainees to work in the group of another Penn State Microbiome Center group, while external fellowships permit trainees to work in a group outside of the University to support the acquisition and dissemination of new expertise, scientific tools, or approaches within Penn State.

The six recipient proposals and their associated trainees are:

- "Creating an Integrative Multi-Omics Model for Predicting Drug Metabolism" -- Nina Boyle, a graduate student in the Huck's Integrative and Biomedical Physiology program working in the lab of Andrew Patterson, Huck Chair of Molecular Toxicology.

- "Microfluidic Chips to Assess the Motility Abilities of Bundle Forming Cyanobacteria from Biocrusts" -- Estelle Couradeau, assistant professor of ecosystem science and management.

- "Co-culturing of Host and Microbial Cells for Elucidation of Host-Microbiome Interactions" -- Erica Ryu and Naomi Huntley, biology graduate students working in the lab of Emily Davenport, assistant professor of biology.

- "Bridging the Gap Between Soil Microbial Communities and Soil Gas Emissions" -- Jose Raul Roman, a postdoctoral researcher working in Estelle Couradeau's lab.

- "Mitigation Strategies of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) via Microalgal consortia for sustainable wastewater reuse" --- Waleed El Sayed, a research associate in the lab of Meng Wang, assistant professor in environmental systems engineering.

- "Can Fermented Food Microbiomes Be Leveraged for Food Safety and Nutrition Security?" Josephine Wee, assistant professor of food science.

"The IIF is empowering me to leverage the outstanding facilities and minds at Penn State to integrate cutting-edge metagenomic sequencing analyses into my research on drug metabolism," said Boyle. "I am grateful to be selected as an awardee."

"I am enthused that these six projects and their trainees will receive Interdisciplinary Innovation Fellowships to undertake ambitious new directions in research," Bordenstein added. "I have no doubt that they will amplify their work for external funding in the future"

The Interdisciplinary Innovation Fellows program is supported by funding from the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. Fellowships are awarded annually each Summer up to $5,000, and are open to active members of the Penn State Microbiome Center, with emphasis given to supporting participation from underrepresented groups.

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