Otto X. Cordero, Ph.D.

Co-Director, PriME
Doherty Assistant Professor of Ocean Utilization, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Otto X. Cordero’s website

PriME Project: The Structure-Function Mapping of µ-Scale Microbial Ecosystems

Despite major advances driven by molecular technologies over the last two decades, little has emerged in the way of theoretical frameworks and principles for microbial ecosystems. As a consequence, the study of microbial ecosystems relies primarily either on (i) catalogs of fine-grained features like 16S rRNA types present in a large-scale assemblage, such as a human gut or a few liters of seawater, or on (ii) physiological studies of single species in isolation from their ecological context. Although these two approaches provide valuable information about the microbial world, the disconnect between them is a manifestation of the lack of theory linking physiology to ecological patterns. Here we propose a multidisciplinary framework to develop such a theory, integrating mathematical and computational modeling with experiments. Inspired by the heterotrophic microbial communities commonly found on marine particles, we will develop a model ecological system with micro-scale structure to investigate the ‘rules’ that drive the self-organization of microbial ecosystems and that control their structure, dynamics and function. Our work will result in a cohesive quantitative framework that will help us understand the fundamental drivers of microbial community dynamics and function.

Otto X. Cordero received a B.S. in computer and electrical engineering from the Polytechnic University of Ecuador, an M.Sc. in artificial intelligence from Utrecht University, and a Ph.D. in theoretical biology, also from Utrecht University. His main research focus is the ecology and evolution of natural microbial collectives. The Cordero lab is interested in understanding how social and ecological interactions at micro-scales impact the global productivity, stability and evolutionary dynamics of microbial ecosystems.

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