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Complex Microbial Systems Group

Microbes play a critical role in health, agriculture, public safety, alternative energy, manufacturing and the environment. These applications demand reliability of identification, discrimination, and quantification of microbes at a level of speed and accuracy that is unprecedented.

The Complex Microbial Systems Group develops advanced measurements and standards for exploitation of microbes to promote human health, precision medicine, advanced manufacturing and other industrial applications. The group uses genomic and metagenomic approaches to improve measurements on microbiomes, and is developing reference materials for assessing the sensitivity and specificity of pathogen detection devices.  Advanced methods including microfluidics, predictive modeling of engineered microbes, bioinformatics and state-of-the-art imaging are being applied to critical areas such as combatting antibiotic resistance, food safety, clinical diagnostics, and engineering biology.



Microbes have essential roles in nearly every ecological niche on Earth, including the human body. The NIST Microbiome Program supports the rapidly growing industries that are developing microbial-based solutions to treat disease, improve human and environmental health, enhance agricultural productivity and food safety, bioremediate waste, produce new biofuels, and avert infrastructure corrosion. Our efforts include:

  1. Fecal RM
  2. Horizontal Gene Transfer
  3. Measurement Bias Characterization (coming soon)
  4. Multi’omics (coming soon)
  5. Probiotic/bugs as drugs (coming soon)

Pathogen Detection and Biosurveillance

In collaboration with partners and stakeholders, NIST develops standards, methods, and measurement solutions to support the advancement of clinical diagnostics, biothreat detection, recreational water quality monitoring, biomanufacturing quality control, wastewater surveillance, and spread of antimicrobial resistance. Specific projects include:

  1. Rapid Microbial Testing Methods
  2. Microbial Pathogen Genomic DNA Standards RM8376
  3. Mpox Pandemic Surveillance Standards
  4. Recreational Water Quality Testing qPCR Standards SRM2917
  5. Wastewater Surveillance
  6. Antimicrobial Resistance
  7. Interlaboratory Studies (coming soon)

Postdoctoral Research Opportunities

Selected Publications

Performing Skin Microbiome Research: A Method to the Madness

Heidi H. Kong, Bj?rn Andersson, Thomas Clavel, John E. Common, Scott Jackson, Nathanael David Olson, Julia Segre, Claudia Traidl-Hoffman
Growing interest in microbial contributions to human health and disease has increasingly led investigators to examine the microbiome in both healthy skin and

Report from the 2022 NIST Rapid Microbial Testing Methods (RMTM) Workshop

Stephanie Servetas, Nancy Lin, Nadratun Chowdhury, Scott Jackson, Jason Kralj, Sheng Lin-Gibson, Melody Sanders, Tara Eskandari
Safety and quality of advanced therapies, including cellular, gene, and tissue-engineered medical products, is paramount for success of these products

Enhancing untargeted metabolomics using metadata-based source annotation

Scott Jackson, Paulina Piotrowski, Nancy Lin, Sandra M. Da Silva, Katrice Lippa, Christina Jones, Stephanie Servetas, Julia Gauglitz, Kiana West, Wout Bittremieux, Candace Williams, Kelly Weldon, Morgan Panitchpakdi, Francesca Ottavio, Christine Aceves, Elizabeth Brown, Nicole Sikora, Alan Jarmusch, Cameron Martino, Pieter Dorrestein, Rob Knight, Rachel Dutton, Austin Swafford, Monica Guma, Norberto Peporine Lopes, Brigid Boland, Michelli Oliveira, Mark Manary, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Kenneth Wright, Julia Beauchamp-Walters, Kyung Rhee, Jae Kim, Megan Doty, Robert Terkeltaub, David Gonzalez, Curt Wittenberg, Tatyana Kalashnikova, Parambir Dulai, Douglas Galasko, Rima Kaddurah Daouk, Robert Mills, Paulo Louzada-Junior, Rene Donizeti Ribeiro Oliveira, Thaigo Mattar Cunha, Flavio Protaso Veras, Rodrigo Moreira Silva, Juliano Geraldo Amaral, Lucas Maciel Mauriz Marques, Barry Bradford, Lourdes Herrera, Gail Ackermann, Dana Withrow, Daniela Vargas Robles, Kate Sprecher, Clarisse Marotz, Mingxun Wang, Emmanuel Elijah, Dominic Nguyen, Qiyun Zhu, Daniel McDonald, Edgar Diaz, Pedro Belda-Ferre, Katharina Spengler, Abigail Johnson, Gregory Humphrey, MacKenzie Bryant, Tara Schwartz, Lindsay Goldasich, Fernando Vargas, Roxana Coras, Justin Schaffer, Erfan Sayyari, Kathleen Dorrestein, Michael Meehan, Anupriya Tripathi
Human untargeted metabolomics studies annotate only 10% of molecular features. We introduce reference-data-driven analysis to match metabolomics tandem mass

Impact of disaster research on the development of early career researchers: Lessons learned from the wastewater monitoring community pandemic response

Jeseth Delgado Vela, Jill McClary-Gutierrez, Mitham Al-faliti, Peter Arts, Robert Barbero, Cristalyne Bell, Mira Chaplin, Nishita D'Souza, Janet Baffoe, Kevin Bakker, Devrim Kaya, Raul Gonzalez, Kate Harrison, Sherin Kannoly, Ishi Keenum, Lin Li, Zachary Marsh, Brian Pecson, Sarah Philo, Hema P. Ravindran, Jatuwat Sangsanont, Rebecca Schneider, Melissa Schussman, Emily Segelhurst, Abhilasha Shrestha, Lauren Stadler, Allan Vajra, Krista R. Wigginton, Alexandria Boehm, Rolf Halden, Kyle Bibby