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William Harcombe

Associate Professor


lab website

Ph.D., University of Texas - Austin, 2009


Microbial communities drive processes ranging from human health to global nutrient cycling.  Furthermore, there is great hope that the power of microbial consortia can be harnessed to generate biofuels and novel pharmaceuticals. Despite the clear importance of microbes we remain largely ignorant about how the physiology and ecological interactions of cells shape the content, function and evolutionary dynamics of microbial communities.  My lab uses synthetic communities to mechanistically dissect the interplay between ecological and evolutionary processes across multiple levels of biological organization.  Additionally, we use computational approaches to quantitatively investigate how the behavior of metabolic networks influences the emergent properties of complex systems from cells and ecosystems.

Selected Publications

Chacón JM, Harcombe WR. (2019) The power of metabolism for predicting microbial community dynamics. mSystems 4 (3) e00146-19

Fazzino L, Anisman J, Chacón JM, Heineman RH, Harcombe WR (2019) Lytic bacteriophage have diverse indirect effects in a synthetic cross-feeding community. ISME doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0511-z

Hammarlund SP, Chacón JM, Harcombe WR. (2019) A shared limiting resource leads to competitive exclusion in a cross-feeding system. Environmental Microbiology. 21:759-771

Harcombe WR, Chacón JM, Adamowicz EM, Chubiz LM, Marx CJ. (2018) Evolution of bidirectional mutualism from byproduct consumption. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 115: 12000-12004.

Adamowicz EM, Flynn J, Hunter RC, Harcombe WR. (2018) Cross-feeding modulates antibiotics tolerance in bacterial communities. ISME. 12: 2723-2735.

Chacón JM, Moebius W, Harcombe WR (2017) The spatial and metabolic basis of colony size variation. ISME. 12(3) 669.

Harcombe WR*, Riehl W*, Dukovski I, Granger BR, Betts A, Lang AH, Bonilla G, Kar A, Leiby N, Mehta P, Marx CJ, Segre D. (2014) Predicting the spatio-temporal dynamics of microbial community metabolism. Cell Reports 7(4):1104-1115

Chubiz, L, Granger, BR Segre D, Harcombe, W. 2015. Species interactions differ in their genetic robustness. Frontiers in Microbiology. 6:271

Plucain, J. Hindre, T., Le Gac M., Tenaillon, O., Cruvioller, S., Medigue, C., Leiby. N., Harcombe, W.R., Marx, C.J., Lenski, R., Schnedier, D. 2014. Epistasis and allele specificity in the emergence of a stable polymorphism in Escherichia coli. Science 343(6177):1366-1369.  

612-301-1164 Fax: 612-624-6777

208 Ecology
1954 Buford Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108