“Grand Computational Challenges in the Metagenomics Era”
University of Oklahoma
Dept of Microbiology & Plant Biology
Institute for Environmental Genomics
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Host: Ting Chen
Microorganisms constitute the most abundant life forms on Earth’s biosphere, and play integral and unique roles in ecosystem functioning, such as biogeochemical cycling of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), phosphorous (P) and various metals. Understanding the functional diversity, composition, structure, and interactions of microbial communities across different spatial and temporal scales is a critical issue in microbial community ecology. However, analyzing microbial community structure and linking community structure to functions are very difficult. Metagenomics and associated genomics technologies such as high throughput sequencing and functional gene arrays have been demonstrated to be powerful tools for understanding microbial community composition, structure, function, and dynamics and linking microbial communities with environmental factors and ecosystem functioning. With recent advance in metganomics technologies, massive experimental data can be produced, but one of the greatest difficulties is how to handle, analyze and synthesize such massive metagenomics data. In this talk, I will first briefly highlight the current status and most recent development of metagenomics technologies. Then I will describe some great challenges in handling sequencing-based soil metagenomics data. Also, I will describe mathematical prediction of random sampling problems, which results in artifacts in overestimating microbial community diversity across different samples. In addition, I will introduce a new random matrix theory-based mathematical framework to describe ecological network interactions based on metagenomics data, their challenges, and future directions.