Current Research.  Microorganisms are the smallest living things on Earth, yet they influence and define life as we know it.  Studies (Kembel et al. 2012, Rintala et al., 2008, Tringe et al., 2008) have shown that the microbiome of built environments is very complex, shaped by the human population that inhabits it, air circulation, building use, design and materials.  Most individuals spend about 90% of their time indoors!  You are constantly assaulted with either permanent or transient microorganisms from the built environment, which interplay with your own microbiome (Kembel et al., 2012).

In my lab, we are researching how the human microbiome changes in response to the space it inhabits or other environmental pressures.  We have been studying how the microbiome of the built environment changes spatially (e.g., corridors, lobbies, closed rooms) and temporally (i.e., daily, seasonally, annually), so that we can begin to understand factors that shape, challenge and maintain the human microbiome.  We have also been studying how microorganisms found in the oral cavity (mouth & teeth) differ between Old Order Amish individuals compared to western non-Amish individuals.  By studying differences and similarities in community composition, we may be able to identify key players in periodontal disease and other health statuses.

Other Research Project:

  • A study of how an additional electron donor can change nitrates in soils.  This is a collaborative interdisciplinary research project with faculty and students in Engineering Department at Elizabethtown College