The NMDC Champions Program

Enabling researchers to regularly engage with and contribute to the NMDC project.

Do you appreciate the value of well-curated data? Would you like to tell others about the NMDC? Are you excited about data sharing and reuse? Are you interested in advocating for the importance of FAIR microbiome data?

Apply to the NMDC Champions program!

With a core priority of developing shared resources together with the microbiome research community, the NMDC team launched the Champions program to enable motivated researchers to regularly engage with and contribute to the NMDC.

Applications are accepted year-round! Apply now. 


NMDC Champions

Aaron Robinson (LANL)
Staff Scientist
I am honored to be an NMDC Champion and to advocate for open science as I strongly believe in the NMDC mission and hope to contribute to it through the development and dissemination of research practices and tools that help standardize data, increase data reusability, and make data more accessible to all.
Ahmed Shibl (New York University Abu Dhabi)
Research Associate
As an NMDC Champion, I will seek to connect and engage with microbiome researchers to tackle local and regional infrastructure challenges. I believe it is time for the microbiome community to push for an adaptable system that supports metadata curation, shared ownership of data, and seamless cross-study partnerships. I also hope to further give the FAIR Microbiome IN an international presence, allowing us to meet the NMDC objective of becoming a community-driven, integrative data science ecosystem.
Alex Honeyman (Colorado School of Mines)
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
I became a NMDC Champion to promote applied, practical applications of environmental microbial ecology. We need to develop a reliable framework for data standards, which is an an important and timely task.
Alexis Garretson (George Mason University)
Graduate Research Fellow
I hope as an NMDC Champion I can apply my knowledge of data rescue, scientific gateways, and data integration efforts to support the ongoing work of NMDC and advocate for FAIR microbiome data.
Alonna Wright (UC Davis)
PhD Candidate
I believe microbiome data helps us better understand our world and our health. Making this data more accessible and adherent to FAIR data practices would provide opportunities for meaningful analyses that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
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.
Asa Conover (UC Berkeley)
PhD Student
Bablu Kumar (University of Milan)
Ph.D. Student
As a Ph.D. student in Systems Medicine (Computational Biology), I have joined NMDC with a dedicated commitment to advancing open science through the advocacy for standardized metadata practices. Bringing expertise in bioinformatics, specifically in multi-omic gut microbiome analysis, my focus aligns seamlessly with NMDC's mission. I am devoted to contributing to the establishment of robust metadata standards, specifically tailored for applications in machine learning to advance our understanding of the gut microbiome
Bonnie Hurwitz (University of Arizona)
Associate Professor
Beautifully harmonized metadata is like a love letter to the future. NMDC is the global community and service making sure these letters get delivered!
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.
Buck Hanson (Los Alamos National Laboratory)
What drives me ultimately to advocate for FAIR microbiome data is accessibility. This means not only finding data files but importantly, the context in which the data derives from. Knowledge sharing and communication is the best way forward. I believe that a greater understanding of Earth’s microbiomes will inspire new tools and approaches for future challenges.
Car Reen Kok (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
Postdoctoral Researcher
I would like to contribute towards improved data transparency and accessibility within the scientific community. With the growing amount of microbiome sequencing data, it has become ever so important to make datasets easily accessible to drive reproducible research, enhance collaboration, and support innovation of new bioinformatic tools or analyses pipelines.
Cassie Ettinger (University of California, Riverside)
Postdoctoral Researcher
I would like to be an advocate to the community for reproducible workflows, open code and do more than just lead by example, but work to educate others on these topics.
Chhedi Gupta (UCSF)
Computational Biologist
As an NMDC Champion, I aim to connect, collaborate, and contribute to the microbiome research community, promoting shared resource development and advocating for data sharing and reuse.
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.
Cristal Zuniga (San Diego State University )
Assistant Professor
I'm happy to join NMDC because it will enable faster and accurate development of new predictive methods for advanced microbiome analysis.
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.
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
Geizecler Tomazetto (Aarhus University)
Postdoctoral Fellow
I’ve realized that besides using your datasets to answer your own scientific questions, they can also be useful for other researchers. Reuse of data would not only save time and funding resource, but may also represent a timepoint that they may no longer be recovered. With microbiomes evolving at such a high complexity, sharing data and metadata are critical for research.
Geoffrey Zahn (Utah Valley University )
Associate Professor
I became an NMDC champion because I believe that good science should be not only reproducible, but reusable, and promoting data standards allows important insights to emerge from old data sets.
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.
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.
Jason Rothman (University of California, Irvine)
Postdoctoral Fellow
I strongly advocate for FAIR microbiome data in my field and have strove to incorporate detailed metadata in all of my studies. As a researcher who uses multi-omics to study diverse environments, I appreciate when others’ data is FAIR, so that I may draw parallels between our work. Simply put, advocating for, and implementing FAIR data is just the right thing to do.
Jessica Audrey Lee (NASA Ames Research Center)
Research Scientist
FAIR data are not only available but actually accessible and interpretable, making it easier for scientists new to the data science world to get involved and start doing productive research rapidly. That's one of the things that excites me most about open data. Being an NMDC Champion would help me keep in touch with the microbiome community, help me learn more about the movement toward FAIR data, and would allow me to make a substantive contribution. 
João Carlos Setubal (University of Sao Paulo)
John-Marc Chandonia (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Computational Biologist Research Scientist
I became an NMDC Champion because I am interested in collaborating to develop new technologies for managing data. I am particularly interested in solving long-standing challenges in making data truly interoperable and reusable.
JP Dundore-Arias (California State University, Monterey Bay)
Assistant Professor
I became an NMDC Champion because I am excited to be part of this collaborative community developing efforts to increase awareness, access and engagement in the microbiome research community.
Judson Hervey (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL))
Research Biologist
I became an NMDC champion to promote consistent metadata, data acquisition standards, and data analysis workflows from the metagenome community to other meta*omics studies, researchers, and communities.
Justine Debelius (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)
Assistant Scientist
Science relies on our ability to replicate data. Transparency in data science requires access to the same datasets. Meta analysis requires access to consistent datasets. I'd like to help shape the future of microbiome metadata and find a way to make data more accessible.
Kate Lane (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute / Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Ph.D. Student
Research using microbiome data continually transforms our understanding of life on Earth. Building an accessible, transparent, and robust data science ecosystem will enable more collaborative, reproducible, and impactful science.
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.
Leandro Nascimento Lemos (The State University of Campinas)
Postdoctoral Fellow
I became an NMDC Champion because I believe in Open Science and FAIR Guiding Principles. These standards will improve the use of public data and metadata to generate new studies and knowledge.
Linton Freund (University of California, Riverside)
Ph.D. Candidate
By making our data and analyses accessible, understandable, and shareable, we can work together to unravel the complexities within microbial communities across the globe. The fact that this is not the most important aspect in microbial ecology, in science in general, is a disservice to all of us. I am passionate about making data analysis understandable for all researchers, and being an NMDC Champion would allow me to turn this passion into action.
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.
Luke Thompson (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)
Associate Research Professor
I am excited to be an NMDC Champion because our community has a special opportunity to make our data more reusable -- empowering scientists, citizens, and governments to use this data for research, medicine, conservation, and restoration.
Marie Kroeger (In-Pipe Technology, Los Alamos National Laboratory)
Chief Science Officer, Guest Scientist
I became a NMDC Champion to promote the FAIR microbiome data initiative which allows for more collaboration and increased reusability of data to answer outstanding scientific questions.
Mikayla A. Borton (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
Postdoctoral Research Associate
I'm excited about engaging with the research community to improve metadata standards!
Nancy Merino (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
Postdoctoral Researcher

FAIR microbiome data is necessary to support collaborations and future research analyses. It is important to assess the data quality and connect the metadata, including sample processing and data creation/analyses steps. I became a NMDC champion to help test workflows and make microbiome data FAIR.

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! 
Natascha Varona (University of Miami)
Ph.D. Student
I joined the NMDC Champions program to help streamline and ease the process of accessing microbial data and utilizing software tools. This will help push the field forward, and as scientists, we share the responsibility to make information available. I am excited to join this group and contribute to the cause
Ryan McClure (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
I’m very excited to be an Ambassador for the NMDC since I’m a big proponent of integrating data from around the world to bring science and scientists together.
Ryan Toma (Viome Life Sciences)
Research Scientist
I became an NMDC Champion in order to help build a community of scientists and institutions dedicated to enabling open access to molecular data that can be used to generate insights into human health and disease.
Sean Cleveland (University of Hawai'i)
Cyberinfrastructure Research Scientist
I want to be a part of the process for defining FAIR standards and integrations, as this data is important and expensive to acquire and therefore should be responsibly managed. The need for standards and methods for integration is essential.
Sean Gibbons (Institute for Systems Biology)
Assistant Professor
I became an NMDC Champion because I believe that access to usable public data and metadata is a right and not a privilege.
Sneha Couvillion (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
Staff Scientist
Open science and FAIR data is the future. As an early career scientist, I want to be part of a collaborative, diverse and empowered microbiome research community. I became an NMDC champion to help foster and promote this culture in microbiome science.
Ulas Karaoz (Berkeley Lab)
Staff Scientist
I became an NMDC Champion because as microbiome science shifts from data generation to interpretation, FAIR data is critical to enable integration of global datasets.
Venkat Subramanian (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Sr. Research Scientist
I want to become an NMDC champion to contribute towards the generation of a centralized and an easily accessible repository for metagenomic and multi-omics datasets that would open new avenues of exploratory biological research.
Winston Anthony (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)
Postdoctoral Fellow
Yigal Achmon (Guangdong Israel Institute of Technology)
Assistant Professor
I want to improve the scientific findings, reproducibility, and collaborative efforts among peers. I also want to help create community and to learn.
Ying Zhang (University of Rhode Island)
Associate Professor
I see from my own work the importance of benchmarking diverse approaches and making sure data obtained from different studies are standardized for comparison. I want to work with scientists of the same interests to help promote the production and documentation of high quality data.

What do Champions do?

NMDC Champions are important contributors to the development of the NMDC, and are among the first to provide feedback on core activities, which include:

NMDC Activity Details
Usability testing Usability testing to improve the UI and feature development of the NMDC Data Portal, NMDC EDGE, and the NMDC Submission Portal 
Engagement activities Consult on, demo, and preview new engagement programs and activities
Workflows Beta-test new NMDC bioinformatic workflows before public release
Training & documentation Provide critical feedback on NMDC training and documentation
Data management Contribute to improving data management plan best practices

Champions are expected to:

  • Spend +10-12 hours per year on NMDC activities
  • Promote and share NMDC content and opportunities via email and social media
  • Share your experiences on data curation, data management, or working with the NMDC – in person, at events, or via the NMDC web platforms
  • Advocate for the importance of FAIR microbiome data and spread the NMDC mission

Benefits of being a NMDC Champion


Build relationships with others who are passionate about FAIR microbiome data

Meet scientific experts from the NMDC Scientific Advisory Board and partner organizations

Join the NMDC in promoting FAIR microbiome data (e.g. congressional briefings, conference panel sessions and talks)


Discuss in-depth updates with NMDC team members in dedicated Champions program meetings

Receive an on-boarding handbook with NMDC resources upon acceptance into the program


Be acknowledged as an NMDC Champion on the NMDC website

Receive recognition for contributions to core NMDC activities

Have your research promoted through the NMDC communication channels

How are the Champions and Ambassadors programs different?

The NMDC launched the 2021 Ambassadors program to provide training and support for early career researchers who are motivated to engage with their respective research communities to lower barriers to adoption of metadata standards. Ambassadors are required to meet additional expectations in order to carry out targeted activities in collaboration with the NMDC. The programs differ in the following ways:

Champions Program Ambassadors Program
A rolling application review process

Remain a Champion while expectations are met

Minimum of 10-12 hours per year dedicated to NMDC activities

No required training sessions

Open to individuals at any career stage or location

Opportunities to contribute are offered on an ad-hoc basis depending on interests of the Champion and needs of the NMDC team

Concrete application deadlines

Cohort based with a 1-year program duration

Minimum of 24-36 hours per year dedicated to NMDC

6 required training sessions

Limited to early career researchers based in the US

Ambassadors spearhead a year-long project with specific NMDC objectives targeting their communities

Learn more about the NMDC Ambassadors program. Still have questions? Contact us.

Thank you for your interest
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