The WCMR is officially approved by the University Senate

Monday, May 15, 2017

The WCMR has been officially approved by the University of Waterloo Senate on May 15th, 2017. The official mission of the centre is that it will unify, catalyze, and promote multidisciplinary research at the University of Waterloo that explores and exploits microbes.

The institute begins with 44 founding members from across 5 of the 6 faculties at the University of Waterloo.

WCMR will provide a structure for collaborative activities that involve microbial research on campus, and will also promote national and international research initiatives. I am pleased that so many researchers from across campus have agreed to participate as founding members.

George Dixon, Vice-President, University of Waterloo Research

By virtue of their ubiquity, metabolism, and many roles in catalyzing critical biogeochemical cycles, microbes are essential keystone players that maintain the productivity and health of terrestrial, aquatic, and host-associated environments. In addition, microorganisms are major sources of drugs, enzymes, and processes related to human health and disease.

Despite decades of study, the vast majority of microbial species that exist within Earth’s ecosystems, including those associated with engineered environments and the bodies of multicellular organisms (e.g., “the human microbiome”), remain completely unknown.

Many ecosystems are becoming increasingly threatened due to anthropogenic activities, with enormous implications for food and water security. At this critical time of global change, microbes may be used to monitor and mitigate these changes, serving as both canaries in the coalmine and ecosystem engineers for habitat restoration.

The Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (WCMR) at the University of Waterloo will combine interdisciplinary research and academic programs that explore and exploit microbial communities and their collective genomic potential within Earth’s myriad habitats.

The proposed Centre will be named for the study of microbes (“microbial” refers to eukaryotes, bacteria, archaea, and viruses), which includes analyses of their biomarkers (e.g., DNA, RNA, proteins, metabolites) and studies of the role of microbes in natural or engineered habitats. As such, the WCMR will be home to all “microbiome” research on campus, which focuses on microbial communities and their shared metagenomic (i.e., community genome) contributions.

The WCMR will bring together shared computational and multi-omic infrastructure and methodology, with research themes and leadership spanning microbiology, genomics, computational biology, bioinformatics, earth science, environment and ecology, and engineering. Importantly, the WCMR will support coordinated interdisciplinary microbiome research spanning the full spectrum from basic research discovery to the application of microorganisms to solve problems of economic and environmental impact.

Relevant senate agenda (pdf)