Awardee: Taylor M. Royalty (University of Tennessee Knoxville)
Current Placement: Computational Biologist, SomaLogic
Degree: Ph.D. Geology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2020)
Advisor: Andrew D. Steen (University of Tennessee Knoxville)
Amount: $92,190.00
Award Dates: June 1, 2018 — December 31, 2020


My research focused on developing quantitative and theoretical frameworks to better understand microbial diversity. I explored topics which include:

  1. How microbial community diversity influences genome (metagenome-assembled genome) discovery in short read sequencing studies. I proposed using a coupon collector, a general probability sampling model, to predict the sequencing effort needed to sequence rare genomes.
  2. Evaluating the relationship between microbial lineage and genomic trait composition. I evaluated ~120,000 publicly available genomes for patterns in cluster of orthologous groups with respect to taxonomy. Taxonomic ranks spanning domain through genus had significant explanatory power on how traits are distributed across the tree of life. More so, this indicates taxonomy, even at higher taxonomic resolutions, can act as a proxy for certain genomic features.
  3. Quantitatively measuring how disperse microbial traits are across microbial communities. Traits are said to be more functionally redundant when possessed by more community members. I applied concepts from traditional diversity theory to measure how evenly microbes in communities contribute to an aggregated ecosystem function.