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Friday Evening Lecture Series

Jeff Gordon


"Dining in with a Few Trillion Friends: Exploring the Human Gut Microbiome"
Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D., Washington University of St. Louis

Introduction by Mitchell L. Sogin, MBL

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Lecture Abstract:
Our genetic landscape is a summation of the genes embedded in our human genome and the genomes of our microbial partners (the microbiome). Similarly, our metabolic features are an amalgamation of human and microbial traits. Therefore, an understanding of the range of human genetic and physiologic diversity means that we must characterize our microbiome, as well as the factors that influence the assembly, stability, functions, and variations in our microbiota. The results should provide an additional perspective about contemporary human biology, as we assess how our lifestyles, cultural and societal norms, socioeconomic status, and changing biosphere are influencing our ‘micro’-evolution, and thus our health. Therefore, members of my lab are exploring the following questions: What are the genomic and metabolic foundations of our mutually beneficial relationships with gut microbes? How do we acquire our gut microbiota? How stable is it? Do humans share an identifiable core gut ‘microbiome’? How do variations in the gut microbiome correlate with and contribute to health and disease? How can we manipulate our gut microbial communities to optimize their performance in the context of an individual, or a population?

Jeffrey I. Gordon is the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He received his A.B. from Oberlin College and his M.D. from the University of Chicago. Dr. Gordon joined the Washington University faculty in 1981 after completing his clinical training in internal medicine and gastroenterology, and spending three years as a research associate at the NIH. He was head of the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology from 1991 to 2004, before becoming director of a new interdepartmental Center for Genome Sciences. From 1994 to 2003, Dr. Gordon also served as director of the University’s Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, which oversees all Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students in the biological sciences. He and his students have conducted interdisciplinary studies of the genomic and metabolic foundations of symbiotic host-microbial relationships in the human gut. Dr. Gordon is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. While at the University, he has mentored 90 Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows, and won a number of awards for teaching and mentorship.

Dr. Mitchell L. Sogin will introduce Dr. Gordon. Dr. Sogin founded the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution in 1996. Over its short history, The Bay Paul Center has become a focal point for collaborative research between molecular biologists, biochemists, parasitologists, ecologists, and other colleagues from the MBL’s summer and resident communities, and from around the world. Dr. Sogin’s research has made many important contributions towards understanding the evolutionary history of protists. His current research employs massively parallel sequencing technology to explore the diversity and relative abundance of different kinds of microorganisms in marine and terrestrial environments as well as the microbiomes of mammalian organisms. Dr. Sogin received his B.S and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Prior to relocating to the MBL in 1989, he was an associate professor at the University of Colorado and was a Miller Professor at the University of California in Berkeley. Dr. Sogin is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Microbiology, He has served on the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board and is a member of the American Society of Microbiology, the Society of Protozoologists, the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, and the American Society for Cell Biology. He serves on the editorial boards of Environmental Microbiology and Protist.