Skip to main content

Seth Bordenstein named director of the Penn State Microbiome Center

The Bordenstein lab brings microbiome scholarship and outreach to Penn State
31 May 2022
Seth Bordenstein
Seth Bordenstein. Image provided.

Seth Bordenstein, Centennial Endowed Professor of Biological Sciences; professor of biological sciences and pathology, microbiology and immunology; associate director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Infection, Immunology and Inflammation; and director of the Vanderbilt Microbiome Innovation Center, Vanderbilt University, will take the reins of the Penn State Microbiome Center in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences in the fall of 2022. 

"Penn State is the best place in the world to conduct, pioneer, and synergize microbiome scholarship, and we are honored to join the faculty and serve the community from trainees to staff, from the university to the state, and from the campus network to the national and international networks of microbiome centers," said Bordenstein.

The goal of the Penn State Microbiome Center is to support transformative, interdisciplinary research in microbiomes. This support includes structured and tacit educational opportunities for students and researchers unique to Penn State.

“At a time filled with potential for the Center, we have been looking forward to this opportunity for several months,” Bordenstein said. “There is a palpable optimism set in motion by the center leadership and faculty who share strong values rooted in the University. We have much to learn and look forward to collaborating with a community who values and demonstrates innovation, compassion, and excellence. I am particularly thankful for the leadership of the founding Center Director, Carolee Bull, who has put the pieces in place for continued excellence.”

Bordenstein’s hire was the result of an in an international search which involved a high level of collaboration across Penn State, including the deans of all 10 Penn State colleges involved in the Microbiome Center. Bordenstein will be a professor of biology (Eberly College of Science) and entomology (College of Agricultural Science).

“At the Eberly College of Science, we aim to build a better future through our research, education and outreach — which aligns with the Bordenstein lab’s track record of research excellence and service to society,” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “We are thrilled to add Seth’s world-renowned expertise to an already strong biology department and to see the lab’s impactful programs integrated into our community outreach.”

“Penn State’s Microbiome Center has made great strides since the first faculty specific to this program were recruited six years ago,” noted Rick Roush, Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “There was a consensus vision among all of the University leadership involved in the Microbiome Center that it was time for us to take it to a much higher level, and I'm delighted that Seth Bordenstein has agreed to take on this challenge.”

Bordenstein’s research focuses on evolutionary and genetic principles that shape symbiotic interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses and the major applications of these interactions to human health. Several key questions of the Bordenstein Lab are: What are the roles of microorganisms in the origin of new host species? How can we utilize bacteria and their associated viruses to control insect pests, and what are the social, environmental, and genetic factors that contribute to variation in the human gut and oral microbiomes? His team aims to eventually understand how human microbiomes respond or contribute to health disparities. 

The Bordenstein lab is also the home of Discover the Microbes Within: The Wolbachia Project, an integrative, discovery-based lab series with a 15-year history of outreach to middle and high school students worldwide. The award winning will also be joining Penn State under the direction of Sarah Bordenstein, who co-runs the Bordenstein lab. 

“One thing that really excited us about coming to Penn State is the cohesiveness and collaboration across organizational units,” said Sarah Bordenstein. “We will be affiliated with the Huck, the Departments of Biology and Entomology, the Microbiome Center, and two colleges. We would like to work across these units with their existing outreach platforms and into the communities and state."

“The Huck Institute is proud to continue to support and nurture the world class collaborative research community studying microbiomes at Penn State,” remarked Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. “The addition of the Bordenstein lab, and its leadership in the field, will help to broaden the depth and impact of the work that we are doing in this space. We are excited to welcome both Seth and Sarah to Penn State.”

"The integrative nature of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences closely aligns with the cross-system and cross-disciplinary aspects of studying symbiosis and the microbiome sciences," noted Seth Bordenstein. “These two fields have always been profoundly networked into major themes of biology. The Huck as a unified life sciences enterprise fueling these disciplines will be a pivotal, long-lasting symbiosis."

The Bordensteins will officially join the Penn State community on Aug. 1. Seth Bordenstein plans to participate in Penn State’s Changing Microbiomes Symposium from May 31 to June 3 in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.