The NMDC Ambassador Program

Training and supporting early career researchers to engage with their research communities

2023 Ambassadors

Anders Kiledal (University of Michigan)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Kiledal is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. He received his PhD from the University of Delaware, where he studied concrete colonizing microbial communities. Kiledal's current research uses 'omics techniques to study cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes and the impacts of graft-versus-host disease on digestive tract microbial communities.
Archana Yadav (LBNL)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Yadav is a current postdoctoral fellow in Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her research area is focused on environmental microbiology, metagenomics and microbial ecology. Across her work, she implements standards in environmental metagenomics to improve data usability.
Daniel Sprockett (Cornell University)
Postdoctoral Associate
Sprockett is a postdoc in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. He earned his PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Stanford University School of Medicine, and his current research focuses on applying ecological and evolutionary theory to better understand the assembly and transmission of host-associated microbiomes.
Heng-An Lin (Texas A&M University)
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Lin’s research focuses on plant-microbiome interactions in response to biotic and abiotic stresses. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences atTexas A&M University.
Hope Bias (FDA-CFSAN)
ORISE Fellow
Bias is a West Virginian with passions for microbiology, public health, and communicating data effectively to the public. She is an ORISE Fellow at FDA-CFSAN working with GenomeTrakr/CovidTrakr. Read more about Hope in her NMDC Snapshot.
Ishi Keenum (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
Postdoctoral Scholar
Keenum is a postdoctoral fellow in the NIST Complex Microbial Systems Group. She received her PhD in Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. Her work focuses on the effects of water and wastewater treatment on the resistome and microbiome.
Jiaxian Shen (Northwestern University)
Ph.D Candidate
Shen is a recent Ph.D. graduate from Erica Hartmann’s lab at Northwestern University. Shen works at the intersection of indoor environmental microbiomes, public health, and data science. She optimizes metagenomics-based surveillance methods and investigates antimicrobial resistance in hospitals.
Joel Swift (University of Kansas)
Postdoctoral Researcher
Swift is a postdoctoral researcher for the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research at the University of Kansas in Dr. Maggie Wagner’s lab. His research explores plant microbiomes under abiotic stress, seeking to assess the ability of host-associated microorganisms to alleviate drought stress in maize.
Josué Rodríguez-Ramos (Colorado State University)
Ph.D Student
Rodríguez-Ramos is a Puerto Rican microbiome scientist and bioinformatician with experience in microbiology, computational biology, viral ecology, microbial metabolism, and biogeochemistry. He is a specialist in multi-omic analyses and the integration of metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics data.
Sarai Finks (Penn State University )
Postdoctoral Scholar
Finks received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. Read her NMDC Snapshot here. Her scientific interests include understanding how microbial communities adapt to environmental (both in host-associated and free-living systems) change, and particularly in the context of biotic interactions where genetic information is shared, such as through mobile genetic elements mediating horizontal gene transfer events.
Reid Longley (LANL)
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Longley is a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory studying the evolutionary consequences of interactions between soil fungi and bacteria. During his graduate studies at Michigan State University, Longley used various omics methods to understand how environmental stressors impact microbiomes associated with crop plants and reef-building corals.
Ryan McDonald (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Staff Fellow
McDonald is a staff fellow at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. His research primarily focuses on characterizing the diversity of food-borne pathogens and antimicrobial resistance genes in animal foods.
Thomas Pitot (DOE)
Ph.D Student
Pitot is a second year Ph.D. at Laval University, Quebec, Canada. He works in Alexander Culley’s Viral Discovery and Ecology Lab (ViDEL) and Sylvain Moineau's Laboratory. He focuses on biogeographic signal characterization, discovery, and ecology of giant viruses in the Last Ice Area in northern Canada.

Learn more about our flagship Ambassadors Program.

The NMDC Ambassador Program

The Ambassador Program utilizes a community learning approach to train and support early career researchers motivated to engage with their respective microbiome research communities and spread awareness and knowledge regarding data stewardship, metadata standards, and bioinformatics workflows. Ambassadors are also provided with a stipend to defray costs.

The NMDC is seeking applications from early career leaders for its 2023 cohort of NMDC Ambassadors who are:

  • Familiar with the challenges of discovering, accessing, and reusing microbiome data
  • Committed to working with the NMDC to make microbiome data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR)
  • Motivated to engage with researchers in their community

Committed to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability (IDEA)


Ambassadors should meet the following criteria:

  • Early career researcher
    • Graduate student or a researcher with 10 years maximum of post-Ph.D. experience
  • Generates and/or works with environmental microbiome data
  • Works with at least one NMDC-relevant data type 
    • Amplicon, metagenomic, metatranscriptomic, metaproteomic, or metabolomic data
    • Experience working with multi-omics data is preferred
  • Willing to dedicate approximately 35 hours over the course of the year (~3 hours per month; see time commitment below)
  • Affiliated with a US institution
    • Does not need to be geographically based in the US

What will Ambassadors do?

Ambassadors will become official NMDC representatives and will be supported by the NMDC team throughout their one-year term. During the course of their term, Ambassadors are expected to (at minimum):


Ambassador activity Details
Contribute to training and template materials  Update content for one NMDC-provided template presentation to reflect an environment relevant to their research community
Engage with their research community Host two workshops, presentations, or events: 1 event with immediate research community, 1 larger event (can be co-hosted with the NMDC and/or other Ambassadors)
Spread the NMDC mission Continually share updates on FAIR microbiome data activities on any online platform (social media, website, NMDC newsletter)
Promote IDEA best practices Demonstrate a continued commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability (IDEA) principles
Learn about microbiome data stewardship Attend all NMDC trainings (see “Time Commitment”)

The Three Ambassador Paths

The 2023 Ambassadors will have the opportunity to choose their specific path regarding the training materials they would contribute to and the events and workshops they will host. Each path and set of training materials would include background information about the topic as well as practical information about one of the NMDC products. The three paths are focused on:

  1. Microbiome data stewardship, data management, and the NMDC Data Portal
  2. Microbiome metadata standards, MIxS templates, and the NMDC Submission Portal
  3. Multi-omic data processing, standardized bioinformatics workflows, and NMDC EDGE


    Benefits of being a NMDC Ambassador

    Dedicated training

    Receive dedicated training on data management, sample metadata standards, microbiome data stewardship, multi-omic data processing, and standardized bioinformatics workflows, as well as the NMDC Data Portal, the NMDC Submission Portal, and NMDC EDGE 



    Expanded professional network in a cohort-based learning environment

    Access to the NMDC team members as well as the NMDC’s large and diverse network of data scientists, microbiome researchers, and multi-omics experts

    Frequent virtual meetings with the other NMDC Ambassadors as well as the NMDC Champions; in-person microbiome meet-ups


    Recognition for service

    Co-authorship on NMDC training resources

    Co-authorship on publications highlighting the Ambassador Program

    Serve as an official NMDC representative 

    Recognition on the NMDC website and have your work continuously highlighted throughout NMDC online platforms

    Support and resources

    Funding to support NMDC events

    Administrative and logistical support for events

    Access to NMDC team members and expertise

    Time Commitment

    The estimated time commitment for each Ambassador is on average 3 hours per month (~35 hours total for the year). This includes ~7 hours of training sessions, ~10 hours of meetings and planning sessions, ~6 hours of workshop and presentation time, and ~12 hours of individual work time. Weekly optional drop-in office hours will also be hosted throughout the program. Ambassadors are expected to adhere to this time commitment, and researchers should not apply for the Program if they are unable to fulfill these commitments. Please note that this time commitment is an approximation, and it may vary slightly based on a variety of factors. A timeline is provided below for planning purposes:

    Program Timeline 

    Date Event
    January 9, 2023 2023 Program launched
    February 7, 2023 Application deadline
    March 15, 2023 Cohort announcement
    March 21, 2023 First Meeting
    March 30, 2023 Training Session 1: Data Stewardship
    April 6, 2023 Training Session 2: Metadata Standards & MIxS
    April 13, 2023 Training Session 3: Standardized Bioinformatics Workflows
    April 21, 2023 Training Session 4: Communications Training
    April 26, 2023 Workshop planning meeting
    May 1, 2023 Ambassador presentation of event plans
    May 1, 2023 – November 1, 2023 Ambassador-led smaller community event


    Ambassador-led event (Workshop or larger presentation)

    May 1, 2023- November 1, 2023 (TBD) Ambassador information sharing sessions
    November 2023 End of term

    2021-2022 Ambassadors

    Arwa Abbas (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
    Postdoctoral Researcher
    Mikayla A. Borton (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
    Postdoctoral Research Associate
    I'm excited about engaging with the research community to improve metadata standards!
    Emily Davenport (Penn State University)
    Assistant Professor
    I'm excited to be a Champion to both learn and teach about making data in microbiome sciences as useful and reusable as possible.
    Natalia Erazo (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
    Ph.D. Student
    I'm excited to help make data open, accessible, and reusable to leverage our knowledge of marine ecosystems for research and conservation! 
    Chloe Herman (Northern Arizona University)
    Ph.D. student
    I am looking forward to collaborating with a group of people who share my passion for making data accessible.
    Lisa Karstens (Oregon Health and Science University)
    Assistant Professor
    I’m looking forward to learning how to empower others to increase the usability and accessibility of microbiome data.
    Brandon Kocurek (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
    Staff Fellow Biologist
    I am most looking forward to sharing my excitement about the potential of metadata standards and engaging the larger research community to amass the same excitement.
    Holly Lutz (University of California, San Diego)
    Assistant Project Scientist
    I am excited to contribute to the promotion of standards and practices that ensure high quality data are freely accessible to all.
    Kevin Myers (Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center)
    I’m excited to be part of NMDC and promote metadata standards because making data FAIR will ensure equal access for everyone to make new discoveries.
    Jaci Saunders (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
    Postdoctoral Investigator
    I’m looking forward to networking with other people who are working at the interface of microbiology and data analytics, and helping elevate the visibility of metaproteomics in the omics informatics space.
    Emily Vogtmann (National Cancer Institute)
    Making microbiome metadata FAIR is essential for future pooled or meta-analyses to understand the impact of the microbiome on human health and disease. I’m excited to contribute to this effort as an NMDC Champion
    Amanda Windsor (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
    Staff Fellow Research Biologist
    I am looking forward to learning how to improve my communication about data and metadata with my colleagues.
    Thank you for your interest
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