|Tami Lieberman obtained her PhD in Systems Biology at Harvard University, working in the laboratory of Roy Kishony, and did her postdoctoral training in Eric Alm’s laboratory at MIT. Her lab opened at MIT in January 2018. The Lieberman Lab is dedicated to bringing about a future in which we can predictably and precisely manipulate human microbiomes, inspired by the potential of rational microbial-based therapies for treating disease and promoting wellness.
The Lieberman lab uses population genomic studies to address mechanistic questions about how single species and strains colonize human microbiomes, with a focus on skin microbiomes. We leverage the mutations that bacteria accumulate during colonization of individual people and evolutionary inference methods to infer past migrations within and across body sites, selective pressures faced by bacteria in vivo, and the molecular strategies used to adapt to these pressures. Crucially, these inferences can be performed without longitudinal studies, because bacterial strains diversify within hosts to form co-existing lineages that preserve a record of their natural history within the host. Other favored approaches include high-throughput culturing and experiments, computational tool development, and interrogation of spatial structure.
In addition to parsing out the determinants of colonization, we are also interested in understanding the implications of within-person evolution of commensals: Does within-person adaptation contribute to community stability? Do species-species interactions vary from one person to the next because of de novo mutations and horizontal gene transfer? We are also excited about using humans as microcosms for studying patterns or rapid adaptation. Since within-person evolution often leads to long-lasting diversification (many years) that preserves a record of a lineage’s history within the host, we can rapidly read into the recent past evolution across many people.