Lauren Lui is a project scientist affiliated with the Arkin lab and the ENIGMA consortium at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
What microbiome-related work do you do?
I am trying to answer “which microbes do what, where, when, and how?” in microbiomes. I aim to build a predictive understanding of microbial community structure, interactions, and activity based on data about the environment and the gene content of community members. To answer these questions, I am using and developing high-throughput cultivation methods of synthetic communities and I use bioinformatics methods to mine 16S amplicon and metagenomics data. I study these questions in microbial communities of subsurface sediment and water as part of the ENIGMA SFA at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I also have a project in collaboration with the Barret Lab at INRAe to develop a pathogen-resistant seed microbiome, which has been funded in part by the France-Berkeley Fund. Ultimately, I want to provide a strong link between genomes and how microbes behave so that we can predict where microbes can live and how they interact with each other.
What have you gained from the initiative so far?
JBIMS has provided an interdisciplinary community where we can discuss how to advance microbiome science. During the first event I attended, a survey indicated that the group felt that the field was not close to having the foundational knowledge or bioinformatics tools needed (confidence was rated around 3 in a range of 1-10), but most felt that in the future we would be able to predictably manage a microbiome (90%). These results illustrate what JBIMS is trying to accomplish – we know that microbiome science has a long way to go, but we are optimistic that we will be able to understand and use microbiomes effectively. I’ve been able to hear the perspectives of scientists from multiple disciplines from attending JBIMS events, which has changed how I approach and present my microbiome research.