We live in a microbial world. There are 7 million times more microbes on Earth than there are stars in the visible universe. The ability to evolve diverse chemical capabilities allows these organisms to grow and survive in varied habitats and to interact in complex microbial communities (microbiomes). Though these assemblages are critical for the health of many environments and organisms, including humans, we currently lack a molecular understanding of how they function.
The overarching goal of research in the Balskus Lab is to transform our understanding of microbes and microbiomes by pioneering approaches that integrate microbiology and chemistry. We explore many exciting questions at the interface of these fields. How can we connect key metabolic activities occurring in these communities to specific microbes, genes, and enzymes? How can we discover the functions encoded by the vast amount of uncharacterized genetic information present in microbiome sequencing data? How can we illuminate the biological consequences of microbial metabolism in complex habitats? How can we selectively perturb individual activities in microbial communities, and could this have therapeutic benefit in the context of the human microbiome? By uncovering the molecular basis for microbial interactions, our work will not only reveal fundamental insights into microbiomes, but also provide innovative solutions to problems facing medicine, agriculture, and the environment.