Rodolphe Barrangou in lab

Microbiomes and Complex Microbial Communities

Our faculty analyze and engineer microbial communities to positively impact crop plants, farm animals, insect pests and the environment.


Cluster Coordinator

Michael Hyman (Plant and Microbial Biology)
Casey Theriot (Population Health and Pathobiology)

Cluster Colleges

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Lead College), College of Engineering, College of Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine

Our cluster will develop the next generation of tools and capabilities to probe the molecular mechanisms underlying community interactions. We will manage, analyze, interpret and model the enormous amounts of data generated by microbiome studies and begin assembling synthetic communities. We will focus on microbial communities associated with crop plants, farm animals, insects and the environment. This focus builds upon NC State’s existing strengths in agriculture and biotechnology and will establish a research nexus in this field.

Note: Microbiomes and Complex Microbial Communities maintains a listerv that anyone at NC State can join. To join the listserv and keep up with the latest information on microbiomes research, teaching and other relevant updates, email Manuel Kleiner at

Seminar Series

The cluster hosts the monthly M^3 Seminar Series.  All of the seminars are on Thursday at 4 p.m. in 3503 Thomas Hall (Stephens Room), with refreshments served at 3:45.

  • September 5: Michael McLaren and Hanna Berman, Callahan Lab
  • October 3: Ibrahim Al’Abri and Deniz Durmusoglu, Crook Lab
  • November 21: Dr. Jon Sanders, Cornell University – “Agglomerating data to study major trends in the ecology and evolution of microbiomes”.
  • December 2 (Monday): External speaker, Dr. Emily Balskus, Harvard University
  • January 9, 2020: Angie Mordant and Alexandria Bartlett, Kleiner Lab

Social Media

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We will support NC State’s growth as an internationally recognized, multidisciplinary center of excellence in the analysis and engineering of plant, animal and insect microbiomes, as well as the complex microbial communities in soil and water environments. In turn, we aim to tackle myriad societal challenges in energy, sustainability, food security and health that trace back to microbial communities.


Life on Earth is sustained by microbial communities composed of bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, algae and protists. These communities inhabit everywhere from the bottom of the ocean to the digestive tracts of insects. Those inhabiting higher organisms have been directly linked to plant growth and productivity, animal health and nutrition, and insect development. Other free-living complex microbial communities are the basis for applied microbial processes such as wastewater treatment, fermentation, bioremediation and biofuel production. NC State maintains the institutional capabilities needed to effectively study microbiomes and other complex microbial communities, including genome and metagenome sequencing, proteomics, bioinformatics, research greenhouses and germ-free animal facilities. Faculty also address the roles of microorganisms in a variety of environmental settings. The university will establish a core group of faculty who can integrate existing tools and resources and focus on characterizing, modeling and engineering microbiomes and complex microbial communities. Our work will bridge the gap between research and application.



Dr. Manuel Kleiner will be teaching a course on Microbial Symbiosis and Microbiomes for the Fall 2019 semester. Learn more about the course.