Human skin supports thousands of interactions with our environment on a daily basis—everything from shaking hands to brushing against a wall to petting a dog. Each of these encounters contributes in different ways to our skin’s microbial communities. There is still much to learn about the mechanisms of microbial transfer and how our environment impacts microbial ecosystems on human skin. Ashley Bateman, biology doctoral student in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution and recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship, is researching microbial transfer and what constitutes a healthy microbial community on human skin.
“Understanding the environmental factors that shape the variability in microbial communities found on human skin and how these communities impact human health will fundamentally change how we live our lives,” Bateman says.
Because the UO is one of the top public institutions in the nation for host- microbe research, it was a natural fit for Bateman, who is advised by Brendan Bohannan and Jessica Green, leading faculty members in the field.
Bateman is one of fifteen active UO graduate students who have been chosen as NSF graduate fellows, including five new fellows for 2013–14. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Research fellows pursue research-based master’s degrees or doctorates. Since the program’s inception, the NSF has received 500,000 applications and awarded 46,500 fellowships.
Each of the UO’s NSF fellows will receive three years of support over a five- year period, including a $32,000 annual stipend, a waiver of full-time tuition and mandatory fees, a $1,000 travel award, a $1,000 annual supplies award furnished by the Office of Research, Innovation, and Graduate Education, and NSF- sponsored international research and professional development opportunities.