Program Directors in MCB regularly attend scientific meetings and workshops in an effort to garner input from the community, spread the word about funding opportunities, recruit panelists, and encourage submissions to our division. Last July, Dr. Pamela Morris and Dr. Susanne von Bodman, Program Directors for Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee for the Computational Advances in Microbiome Research (CAMR) Workshop hosted by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). NIMBioS is an NSF-supported institute that seeks to strengthen interdisciplinary efforts across mathematics and biology fields.
The CAMR workshop focused on identifying state-of-the-art computational approaches and integrating novel bioinformatics techniques from numerous areas of microbiome research. Attendees represented research in the human, soil, plant, and marine microbiomes (just to name a few!). The workshop was co-chaired by Drs. Curtis Huttenhower (Harvard University) and Jill Banfield (University of California-Berkeley) and brought together top leaders in the microbiome community and computational fields to discuss the present state of the science, current techniques across fields, current gaps in capability, and future directions. Dr. Morris was the Program Director managing the NIMBioS supplement that funded the CAMR workshop. The workshop was well attended, with various federal agencies (NIFA/USDA, NIH) and national laboratories (Joint Genome Institute/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), participating either in-person or virtually.
Dr. Morris and Dr. von Bodman felt this workshop was a unique opportunity to showcase research/training opportunities in MCB with the goal of inspiring scientists to integrate strong and novel computational approaches into their research. They both interacted with prospective PIs, University of Tennessee faculty, postdocs, and graduate students about opportunities at NSF. The eight presentations at the workshop have been archived and can be viewed online. After the workshop concluded, Dr. Matthew D. Kane, Program Director for the Ecosystem Science Cluster in the Division of Environmental Biology gave a talk on the breadth of opportunities at NSF available to researchers. Events like this provides a perfect setting to encourage new collaborations, cultivate new ideas, and move the exciting field of microbiome science forward.