Freeman Lan Receives Burroughs Wellcome Fund 2022 Career Award

Freeman Lan
Postdoctoral researcher Freeman Lan.

Postdoctoral researcher Freeman Lan has received a 2022 Career Award at the Scientific Interfaces distributed by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF). Lan works in the Venturelli Lab.

The highly-competitive Career Award at the Scientific Interfaces (CASI) provides $500,000 over five years to support researchers in the quantitative sciences to pursue biological questions as they complete their postdoctoral training and transition to a faculty position. Eleven awards were distributed this year.

“BWF is excited to announce the 2022 CASI awardees, whose projects span a wide variety of topics and disciplines,” said BWF program officer Kelly Rose in a BWF press release. “We look forward to supporting these talented scientists at the beginning of what we know will be fantastic careers filled with important discoveries at the scientific interface.”

Lan’s project, titled “Understanding complex microbial systems using ultrahigh-throughput experimentation, computational modeling, and machine-learning,” will help him continue developing and applying novel methods to study microbiomes and make fundamental biological discoveries as he works toward a faculty position.

“This award gives me confidence that people see value in my current and future research and gives me encouragement to continue pursuing my unique approach to research,” Lan says. “The financial backing also allows me to pursue projects that are too risky to be funded by other traditional agencies.”

He adds that the boundless potential of microbiology research is what drew to the field. He’s interested in studying microbes from a population lens, which requires characterizing massive numbers of microbes. His work will put powerful new tools in the hands of microbiologists to collectively speed up scientists’ understanding of microbes.

“The world of microbes is vast, and we’ve characterized only a tiny fraction of what is out there,” Lan says. “Our pace of discovery is fundamentally bottlenecked by how fast we can perform these tasks, and improvements in how fast and how many experiments we can do will directly lead to faster rates of discovery.”

Biochemistry assistant professor Ophelia Venturelli, Lan’s postdoctoral research mentor, says that she is excited for Lan and what he will accomplish.

“Freeman is a highly creative and motivated scientist who has a unique vision for developing ultrahigh-throughput methods to study microbes and microbiomes,” Venturelli says. “I am very supportive of Freeman exploring these ideas and leveraging our lab’s expertise and resources to advance these exciting research projects. This award will help Freeman launch his independent academic research career and lead to the development of methods that can be widely deployed by the scientific community to study microbiomes in new ways.”

For more on the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interfaces, visit the Burroughs Wellcome Fund website.