Yana Bromberg, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry, received a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the NSF. Bromberg is the principal investigator of the project, “Molecular functional diversity of microbes and microbiomes,” which is being supported by $1,091,177 in NSF funding.
Microbes dominate life on Earth and evolutionary pressure exerted on microbial communities by environmental stressors such as climate change and pollution has global impact. Understanding the environment-specific microbial molecular functions is, therefore, a critical challenge.
According to Bromberg, the project proposes to computationally analyze existing microbial genomic data using a new metric of whole organism molecular function similarity. Such a function-based approach will offer a powerful new way of annotating the world’s microbial functional diversity, allowing selection of environmentally optimized functionality. Applied to the influx of new “-omic” data, that approach will offer a wealth of functional data to guide further experimental research. The tools will be publicly accessible, providing a cheap, efficient and accurate way to extract previously inaccessible meaning from the existing and newly sequenced microbial genomic data.
The CAREER award is NSF’s “most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”