More than 100 trillion microorganisms live in our gut, mouth, skin, and elsewhere in our bodies. Collectively known as the human microbiome, these microorganisms number ten times those of human cells. They are essential to supporting life, with benefits related to digestion, preventing the invasion of disease-causing bacteria, and the synthesis of essential nutrients and vitamins. The microbiome is linked to everything from gastrointestinal health to obesity, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. As Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institutes and an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Institute for Human Genetics at University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Katie Pollard develops statistical and computational methods for the analysis of massive genomic datasets. Her groundbreaking research includes characterizing the human microbiome through metagenomic data.
Shannon Bennett is the California Academy of Science’s first-ever Associate Curator of Microbiology. In this position, she broadens the Academy’s research scope to include a dedicated focus on viruses and bacteria. Her specialty lies in infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.