Westborough High School
Westborough, MA

Ali Rahnavard
Medical and Population Genetics Program

Much research has been done on how the changes in the human body affect the personal microbiome, but research on how microbial traits determine community composition within different body sites has not been undertaken.  To test for the co-occurrence of different species and their traits, a database of all of the microbiota in the human along with their corresponding microbial traits is necessary, but such a comprehensive standard database did not exist. Using computational approaches, Michael created a database that integrated microbial physiology traits with the data from the Human Microbiome Project.  Using this database, enrichment analysis showed a higher occurrence of anaerobic bacteria in the gut.  Additionally, a strong species correlation, with similar traits,  in the gut and oral sites was observed.  These results indicate that microbial traits can have a large impact in determining which sites microbes occupy, and further analysis will provide important insight into the composition of the human microbiome based on microbial physiology.

"At the Broad I am being immersed into a true research experience where I am able to really discover what “research” means. Looking back at it, all my preconceptions were wrong, and the environment is so much more diverse and alive than I ever though it could be. I realized how much collaboration is needed to be done between people of different backgrounds," said Michael.