Jack Gilbert

Nobel Conference 54

You can watch Jack Gilbert's lecture online.

Jack Gilbert is one of the co-founders of the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), an ambitious endeavor to catalogue and characterize microbial life in different environments across the globe. In November 2017, the Earth Microbiome Project published the first phase of the project in Nature. In this paper, they analyzed data about the bacterial species present in greater than 27,000 samples collected from diverse geographical locations, plants, animals and bodies of water around the world. For example, the project included soils from the rainforest in Puerto Rico, seawater from the English Channel, and swabs of bird eggshells in Spain. Through this work, the Earth Microbiome Project was able to highlight the astonishing diversity of bacterial species in soil environments with most soil and sediment samples containing more than 1,000 unique species.

In addition to co-founding the EMP, he also co-founded the American Gut Project, one of the largest crowd sourced citizen science projects in the country examining the gut microbiome of thousands of individuals. Gilbert’s work is at the forefront of developing unifying principles of how communities of microbes assemble and function.

Professor Gilbert is the Director of the Microbiome Center and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago as well as Group Leader for Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory.

Professor Gilbert is the author of “Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System”. Published in 2017, this popular science book discusses why exposure to dirt and the microbes within dirt can actually be beneficial to children. He is also the author of more than 250 peer reviewed publications and book chapters and the founding Editor in Chief of mSystems Journal. In 2015, he was named by Business Insider as one of the top 50 scientists changing the world and by Popular Science as one of the “Brilliant 10”. In 2016, he won the Altemeier Prize from the Surgical Infection Society, and the WH Pierce Prize from the Society for Applied Microbiology for research excellence. He has been featured in numerous radio and television programs including Science Friday and RadioLab on National Public Radio.

Professor Gilbert’s Nobel Conference Presentation

Understanding Earth’s ecology requires us to observe the biosphere at multiple scales, from the level of the whole planet to the scale of soil microbes. We are only just beginning to understand the vital role microbes play in this ecology.. Gilbert illustrated how the EMP shows immense variability of our microbial communities, including those in the soil, and what those differences mean for our lives.