Prior to being appointed President, Karen held a number of other positions at the Institute, including Director of JCVI's Rockville Campus, and Director of Human Microbiology and Metagenomics in the Department of Human Genomic Medicine at JCVI. Dr. Nelson received her undergraduate degree from the University of the West Indies, and her Ph.D. from Cornell University. She has authored or co-authored over 200 peer reviewed publications, edited three books, and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Microbial Ecology. Dr. Nelson is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Other honors include being named ARCS Scientist of the Year 2017; a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology; being inducted into the Indian National Academy of Sciences in 2018; and being appointed an Honorary Professor at the University of the West Indies as well as a Helmholtz International Fellow. Dr. Nelson has extensive experience in microbial ecology, microbial genomics, microbial physiology and metagenomics. Dr. Nelson has led several genomic and metagenomic efforts, and led the first human metagenomics study that was published in 2006. Additional ongoing studies in her group include metagenomic approaches to study the ecology of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals, studies on the relationship between the microbiome and various human and animal disease conditions, reference genome sequencing and analysis primarily for the human body, and other -omics studies.
The human microbiome has been proposed to form an integral part of human health and its role in disease is a part of large investigations. Furthermore, the microbiome is under evaluation as both a source of therapeutics as well as diagnostics. The current state of the science and medicine in relation to precision medicine approaches will be discussed.