"HBCU-RISE" Center
for Microbial Ecology, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, and Water Quality

Principle Investigator

Henry Neal Williams, Ph.D

The HBCU-RISE Center for Microbial Ecology, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, and Water Quality at Florida A&M University Environmental Sciences Institute is a project funded under the auspices of a grant from The National Science Foundation Historically Black Colleges and Universities Research Infrastructure for Science and Engineering (HBCU-RISE) Program.   The objectives of the HBCU-RISE program are to provide high quality research projects under the general theme of Microbial Ecology, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology and Water Quality for training and graduating minority doctoral scientists, particularly African Americans,  graduate students from minorities underrepresented in the sciences who have high-quality research training and preparation to assume professional positions in academia, government or private industry,  to increase graduate infrastructure, support faculty research and promote environmental sciences and biotechnology research. 

The outcome will be a population of students equipped with knowledge, experience, and products, including a record of quality publications, who are well positioned to continue to develop as professional scientists.  The Program supports studies on the interactions of bacteria and viruses with vibrios and the influence of environmental conditions on their ecology.  Both viruses and BALOs are predators and have potential roles in regulating bacterial populations.  The sequencing and comparative genome project led by CO-PI Jonathan Badger will examine genetic influences on the ecological behavior of the BALOs. Moreover, students will gain knowledge and hands-on experience at one of the world’s foremost gene sequencing facilities, the J. Craig Venter Institute/The Institute of Genomic Research (JCVI/TIGR).

The HBCU RISE program was built upon the establishment of a highly productive Molecular Microbial Ecology Laboratory (MME Lab) initiated in 2005 by Principal Investigator Henry Neal Williams, who is one of few experts on the ecology of Bdellovibrio and Like Organisms (BALOs) with support from the 2005 HBCU RISE award to FAMU and the Principal Investigator.  Currently the laboratory is fully operational.   Since its inception, its students, faculty, postdoctoral fellows and collaborators have produced a number of presentations at national and international meetings, grant awards, publications in peer-reviewed journals including an article in the highly regarded Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  This is one of rare publications by an HBCU team to be published in the journal.  We are currently supporting 3 Ph.D. students, two M.S. students, 3 undergraduate students and a postdoctoral fellow.    Molecular microbial ecology is one of the most rapidly growing academic tracks in ESI in student recruitment, grant applications submitted and faculty publications.

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