Media contact: Brianna Hoge
A University of Alabama at Birmingham professor has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop novel software to support marine biologists in the assembly, diversification and coevolution of marine invertebrate microbiome. This unique interdisciplinary project connects UAB’s expertise in developing computational tools and data mining strategies with marine biology research at partner institutions.
The grant is part of the NSF’s 10 Big Ideas initiative, which focuses research activities around 10 core areas. This new grant falls within the “Understanding the Rules of Life” idea, which has multiple goals focused on interactions within and between biological organizations, from the molecular to the biosphere itself. Developing research tools and infrastructure to support these discoveries is where UAB comes in.
Purushotham Bangalore, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Collaborative Computing Laboratory in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. As the principal investigator, Bangalore will be working with graduate, undergraduate and high school students on using computational tools to assess microbiome diversity; using novel software to search, categorize and compile data from DNA sequence archives; and diversifying and classifying marine invertebrates. The grant also supports the development of a high-school-based program to mentor students in the assessment of marine invertebrate biodiversity and training the next generation of scientists in invertebrate biology, host-microbe ecology and evolutionary data analyses.
Bangalore’s funding is part of a larger grant totaling $2,841,869 that supports Robert Thacker, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, and Kent Hatch, professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Long Island University. “Dr. Thacker and Dr. Hatch are working on all the biological aspects of the project, and my focus is on the computational and informatics parts of this work,” Bangalore explained.
“These investigations will enhance our broader understanding of the roles of microbiomes in sustaining biodiversity,” Bangalore said. “It also provides a great opportunity to recruit and train students not only in computer science but also in bioinformatics, one of our newest interdisciplinary undergraduate programs.”