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Patel, Colleagues Find Pesticide May Contribute to Global Obesity Epidemic

U of I Molecular Modeler Jagdish Patel worked with Canadian scientists to screen several common food additives or contaminants. They discovered that the commonly sprayed organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos puts the break on the burning of calories in the brown adipose tissue of mice and published their work in Nature Communications in August. Slowing down this burning of calories, a process known as diet-induced thermogenesis, causes the body to store these extra calories in the form of white fat, promoting obesity.

Incorporating Bacteriophage into an Experimentally-Tractable Animal Model System

Project Team: James T. Van Leuven, Emma Altman

The microbial communities colonizing animal guts are highly influential to host health and development. Animal hosts are impacted by the species of microbes present and temporal changes in their abundances, but the forces governing these dynamics are poorly understood. Bacteriophages modulate bacterial community composition through predation. They also facilitate horizontal gene transfer, stimulate the immune systems of animals, and can be used to fight antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The inclusion of bacteriophages in microbial ecosystem models and testing of these models is critical to understand how these viruses contribute to microbial community dynamics and evolution, and ultimately, to host health.

The goal of the proposed research is to test the molecular, ecological, and evolutionary roles of bacteriophages in host-associated microbial communities using honey bees and their associated gut bacteria. We will modify and apply models of microbial community dynamics to time-series data collected on bee microbiota and then test these models by perturbing bee microbiomes. This project will benefit from collaborative research across institutions and will boost interdepartmental research at University of Idaho.

Drug Discovery

Working Group leader: Marty Ytreberg

Group members: Matthew Bernards, Jagdish Patel, Paul Rowley, Kris Waynant, Jonathan Barnes, Brenda Schroeder, Leah Frye, Xiang Li, Srinath Pashikanti

Originated: February 2021


We will be brainstorming ideas on how the U of I can build a center that has a focus on drug discovery. Discussion includes possible focus areas, current expertise, gaps in knowledge/expertise and funding mechanisms.

Working Group on Belief Formation

Working Group leader: Holly Wichman

Group members: Jeff Bailey, Bert Baumgaertner, Jim Bull, Traci Craig, Florian Justwan, Craig Miller, Dilshani Sarathchandra

Originated: January 2021


Working Group on Belief Formation explores how beliefs and opinions are formed. This is approached from a multidisciplinary perspective. One goal is to foster logical thinking in our students.


Working Group leader: Alan Kolok

Group members: Naveen Joseph, Erik Coats, Russell Baker, Chantal Vella, Helen Brown, Erich Seamon, Karen Hume, Dan Strawn

Originated: January 2021


This group is focused upon evaluating the relationship between water quality in surface and groundwater and its links to adverse human health impacts, particularly cancer.