Title:           Controlling Human Microbiota

Time       2:30 p.m. Wednesday  2017.5.17

Venue:       Room 1501, East Guanghua Tower.

Speaker:   Yang-Yu Liu, Ph.D.

Channing Division of Network Medicine Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School


Yang-Yu Liu is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and an Associate Scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). He received his Ph.D. in Physics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009, with thesis research focusing on phase transitions in disordered magnets. After that, he held positions as Postdoctoral Research Associate and then Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeaster University, before he joined HMS and BWH in 2013. The primary goal of his recent research has been to combine tools from control theory, network science and statistical physics to address fundamental questions pertaining to the control of complex networks. His work on controllability and observability of complex networks have been featured as a cover story in Nature, a cover story in the PNAS, and received broad media coverage including Nature, Science, ScienceNews, ScienceDaily, Wired, etc. He recently co-authored a review article entitled “Control principles of complex networks”, which has been published in Reviews of Modern Physics. His current research efforts focus on developing multidisciplinary approaches to studying human microbiome from the dynamic systems and control theory perspective. For more information, please visit http://scholar.harvard.edu/yyl/


We coexist with a vast number of microbes—our microbiota—that live in and on our bodies, and play an important role in human physiology and diseases. Propelled by metagenomics and next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, many scientific advances have been made through the work of large-scale, consortium-driven metagenomic projects. Despite these advances, there are still many fundamental questions regarding the dynamics and control of microbiota to be addressed. Indeed, it is well established that human-associated microbes form a very complex and dynamic ecosystem, which can be altered by drastic diet change, medical interventions, and many other factors. The alterability of our microbiome offers opportunities for practical microbiome-based therapies, e.g., fecal microbiota transplantation and probiotic administration, to restore or maintain our healthy microbiota. Yet, the complex structure and dynamics of the underlying ecosystem render the quantitative study of microbiome-based therapies extremely difficult. In this talk, I will discuss our recent theoretical progress on controlling human microbiota [1-4].


[1] Bashan A, Gibson TE, Friedman J, Carey VJ, Weiss ST, Hohmann EL, Liu Y-Y. Universality of Human Microbial Dynamics. Nature 2016;534:259-262.

[2] Gibson TE, Bashan A, Cao H-T, Weiss ST, Liu Y-Y. On the Origins and Control of Community Types in the Human Microbiome. PLOS Computational Biology 2016;12 (2):e1004688.

[3] Cao H-T, Gibson TE, Bashan A, Liu Y-Y. Inferring Human Microbial Dynamics from Temporal Metagenomics Data: Pitfalls and Lessons. BioEssays 2017;39(2):1600188.

[4] Chen Y, Angulo MT, Liu Y-Y. Revealing complex ecological dynamics via symbolic regression. bioRxiv: https://doi.org/10.1101/074617