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Home to all microbial research at the University of Waterloo

The Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research is home to all microbial related research at the University of Waterloo. As such, the WCMR focuses on microbial communities and their undiscovered scientific potential. More importantly, the WCMR supports coordinated interdisciplinary research spanning the full microbial spectrum- from basic research discovery to the application of microorganisms to solve problems of economic, health, industrial and environmental impact.

We will bring together shared computational and multi-omic infrastructure and methodology, with research themes and groups covering microbiology, genomics, computational biology, bioinformatics, earth sciences, environment and ecology, as well as engineering. Researchers from all six faculties of the University of Waterloo explore, discover, and innovate through dedication, motivation, and diligence to address environmental, industrial, economic and human health challenges.

Microbes and the Environment

Microbes can be found across many diverse environments all around Earth. For example, Pyrolobus fumarii thrives at temperatures exceeding 100°C in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. At the other extreme, Methanogenium frigidum is found living in Antarctic lakes at temperatures often dropping below freezing.

Microbes play important roles in their respective environments. They are major players in nutrient cycling, they break down harmful chemicals found in their environments, and they form symbiotic relationships with key species. Microbes in the environment have large roles to play in global warming, waste accumulation, human health, and agriculture.

Researchers at the WCMR study interactions between microbes and their environment to better understand the lithosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. Through the use of various methodologies and principles adopted from all faculties at the University of Waterloo, researchers can use the knowledge gained from their results and apply them in the field of environmental engineering, biogeochemistry, hydrology, hydrogeology, environmental psychology and environmental microbiology.

Keywords: Agriculture, Environmental Microbiology, Nutrient Cycling, Climate Change, Bioremediation, Biofiltration, Geomicrobiology, Biodiversity, Groundwater Contamination

[WCMR members researching microbes and the environment]

Microbes and Technology

Microbes play a crucial role in human technology, with early examples of microbial use including the manufacturing of beer and bread. In modern society, microbial technology can be applied to issues like global warming, waste management, pollution, food production, and other challenges that society faces today.
At Waterloo, researchers in the field of nanotechnology, biotechnology, biochemistry, mathematics, synthetic biology and bioprocess engineering collaborate to find new technical applications of microbes. For instance, civil engineers at the University of Waterloo are applying microbial solutions to wastewater treatment while researchers in the Faculty of Environment study land management practices and their relationship to excess phosphorus run-off into lakes and streams, promoting algal blooms.
Keywords: Energy, CleanTech, Lab-on-a-chip Tech, Nanotechnology, Synthetic Biology, Biofiltration, Waste Treatment, Bioreactors, Bioproducts, Protein Engineering, Enzymology, Biosensors

Microbes and Health

Researchers at the WCMR seek to understand the role of microbes in the human body. What do they do? How do they change? How do they cause disease? How can they be used or manipulated? The human microbiome is a vast and poorly understood microbial population that has much undiscovered potential. Researchers from computational biology, biomedical engineering, public health, genetics, and molecular biology backgrounds explore the microbial world within us to broaden understanding of possible microbial applications in treating disease and improving quality of life.
Keywords: Epidemiology, Human Microbiome, Public Health, Phage Technology, Enzymology, Biosensors, Immunology

Understanding Microbes

Researchers at the WCMR are developing fundamental tools to study microorganisms through a variety of methods. This includes studying the metabolism of microbes to determine how they process raw materials from their environment or to find features of microbes that can be utilized in biotechnology. Microbes or microbial components can be co-opted into industrial processes such as the generation of biofuels or applications in nanotechnology. Modern scientific methods generate huge quantities of data and the tools to sift through these results are also in continual development at the WCMR.
Keywords: Bioinformatics, Enzymology, Metagenomics, Proteomics, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Protein Engineering, Data Standardization