Brendan Bohannan selected for the Humbolt Research Award

Brendan Bohannan

UO biologist Brendan Bohannan has received the Humboldt Research Award from the Germany-based Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of his distinguished academic career.

The 60,000-euro prize is awarded to internationally renowned scientists and scholars who work outside of Germany.

“I’m very honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Bohannan, the James F. and Shirley K. Rippey Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Many of the scientists who I most admire have been past recipients of the Humboldt prize.”

A professor in the UO’s Department of Biology and the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Bohannan is also a member of the UO’s Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology. He studies the diversity of microorganisms in environments ranging from the Amazon rainforest to the human gut. 

The Humboldt Foundation recognized Bohannan for the entirety of his academic record to date in the areas of microbial ecology and applied microbiology. Award winners are invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in cooperation with specialist colleagues in Germany and may receive future additional financial support from the foundation. Bohannan is the sixth UO faculty member to receive the prize since 2001.

Prior to joining the UO in 2006, Bohannan served as an associate professor of biological sciences at Stanford University. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Humboldt State University and a doctorate in microbiology from Michigan State University before completing postdoctoral training as a National Science Foundation Fellow at the University of Chicago.

He is a Google Science Communications Fellow and an Aldo Leopold Fellow and has received numerous teaching awards, including being named as a UO Williams Fellow and receiving a James Kezer Faculty Teaching Award from the UO Department of Biology. In 2019 he was named the James F. and Shirley K. Rippey Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences in recognition of his distinguished research profile and deep commitment to undergraduate education.

Researchers in the Bohannan lab study why communities of microorganisms, known as microbiomes, vary in composition and how that variation alters the functions that the groups of microbes perform. They ask those questions of both “nonhost” microbiomes, such as those found in soil or water, and “host” microbiomes, such as those found inside the human body.

The Bohannan group has published the results of its studies in Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and other internationally known journals. Bohannan has helped establish two research centers on campus, the Biology and the Built Environment Center and the Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology.

Bohannan’s numerous research grants include a $7.6 million award from the National Institutes of Health for his work with biologists Karen Guillemin and Judith Eisen and biophysicist Raghuveer Parthasarathy to study the potential health benefits of bacteria. A strong proponent of interdisciplinary research, Bohannan has collaborated with UO faculty members in architecture, prevention science, anthropology, child development and other areas. In 2019, he teamed up with UO philosopher Nicolae Morar to rethink the way scientists frame the discussion around research examining the human microbiome.

The Humboldt Research Award will allow Bohannan to build on his current research at the University of Oregon.

“This award will allow me to expand our research program by collaborating with scientists at two especially innovative German scientific institutions, the Metaorganisms Centre at Kiel University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology,” he said.