The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

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Recruiting new graduate mBiome cohort researching manipulation of microbiomes across the agricultural production chain!

The Penn State Microbiome Center is recruiting 5 Ph.D. fellows to a unique cohort (mBiome) to start Fall 2018, focused on manipulating microbiomes across the agricultural production chain. mBiome Fellows will engage in an interdisciplinary effort to understand how microbiomes interact directly, as a result of microbial flow from food cultivation through human digestion, and indirectly, through their chemical and physical influences on products at each stage. We aim to develop an understanding of, and approaches for, microbiome manipulation to enhance crop yield/quality, reduce the environmental burden of agriculture, improve food quality and safety, and promote human health.


Selected mBiome Fellows will work directly with an advisor matching their interests, but will also have the unique opportunity to perform a mid-degree rotation with another lab to learn new technical skills, enhancing the trans-disciplinary nature of each fellow’s research. Training will focus on developing fellows’ hypothesis generation and testing ability, as well as skills associated with contemporary omic data analysis, with projects focused on current issues facing agriculture and human health.


Example project systems include microbiomes associated with soils, crops (pre- and post-harvest), food safety and quality, and digestion.


With the support of faculty supervising the mBiome cohort, and courses offered at Penn State, fellows will develop expertise in at least two of the following focus areas:


1. Metagenomics and microbiome characterization

2. Comparative genomics and evolution

3. Omics for functional characterization of microbiomes

4. Manipulation of microbiomes for increased resilience of terrestrial agronomic ecosystems

5. Manipulation of microbiomes for optimized nutrient use

6. Manipulation of microbiomes for pathogen control

7. Manipulation of microbiomes for control of antimicrobial resistance evolution


Applications must be made directly to a participating department within the College of Agriculture by December 15th, citing the mBiome cohort program in the cover letter. 


Participating departments – participating faculty:


Department of Food Science – Darrell Cockburn, Jasna Kovac, Edward Dudley

Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology – Terrence Bell, Kevin Hockett, Carolee Bull

Department of Ecosystem Science and Management – Mary Ann Bruns, John Carlson

Department of Entomology – Gary Felton

Department of Plant Science – Mark Guiltinan

Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education – Leland Glenna


Contact Terrence Bell ( for more details about the mBiome program and individual researchers about their projects. Click on the names of the departments above for information about their specific graduate programs.