William W. Metcalf, Ph.D.

University of Illinois-Urbana- Champaign-Urbana, IL

Candidate for ASM President Elect
Professor of Microbiology, Department of Microbiology and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, Urbana IL 61801

  • Ph.D. Microbiology, Purdue University (1991)
  • B.S. Microbiology, University of Illinois (1984)
  • B.S. Anthropology, University of Illinois (1981)
Professional Experience:
  • Professor, University of Illinois, 8/06 -present
  • Assoc. Professor, University of Illinois, 8/03 -8/06
  • Asst. Professor, University of Illinois, 10/97-8/03
  • Postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph S. Wolfe, 2/93 - 10/97
  • Postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Barry L. Wanner, 10/91-2/93
ASM Activities:
  • Division K, Chair, 2005-2006
  • Editor, Journal of Bacteriology, 2011-present
  • American Academy of Microbiology, Committee on Elections, 2014-2018
  • Elected Fellow in the American Academy for Microbiology, 2010
  • ASM member since 1989
Selected Publications:
  1. Kulkarni, G., T.D. M and and W. Metcalf. 2018. Energy Conservation via Hydrogen Cycling in the Methanogenic Archaeon Methanosarcina barkeri. mBio 9:e01256-18.
  2. Nayak, D.D., Mahanta, N., Mitchell, D.A. and W. Metcalf. 2017. Post-translational thioamidation of methyl-coenzyme M reductase, a key enzyme in methanogenic and methanotrophic Archaea. eLife 6: e29218.
  3. Ju, K-.S., J. Gao, J.R. Doroghazi, S. Li, E. Metzger, J. Fudala, J. Su, J.K. Zhang, J.P. Cioni, J. Lee, B.S. Evans, R. Hirota, D.P. labeda, W.A. van der Donk and W. Metcalf. 2015. Large-Scale Discovery of Phosphonic Acid Natural Products by Genome Mining of 10,000 Actinomycetes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112:12175-80.
  4. Doroghazi, J.R., J.C. Albright, A.W. Goering, K.-S. Ju, R.R. Haines, K.A. Tchalukov, D.P. Labeda, N.L. Kelleher and W. Metcalf. 2014. A roadmap for natural product discovery based on large-scale genomics and metabolomics. Nat. Chem. Biol. 10:963-8.
  5. Yu X., J.R. Doroghazi, S.C. Janga, J.K. Zhang, B.T. Circello, B.M. Griffin and W. Metcalf. 2013. Diversity and abundance of phosphonate biosynthetic genes in nature. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110:20159-64.
  6. Metcalf, W.W., B.M. Griffin, R.M. Cicchillo, J. Gao, S.C. Janga, H.A. Cooke,T. Circello, B.S. Evans,W. Martens-Habbena, D.A. Stahl, W.A. van der Donk and. 2012. Synthesis of methylphosphonic acid by marine microbes: a source for methane in the aerobic ocean. Science. 337:1104-7.
  7. M. Cicchillo, J.A.V. Blodgett, H. Zhang, G. Li, J. Whitteck, S.K. Nair, W.A. van der Donk and W.W. Metcalf. 2009. An unusual carbon-carbon bond cleavage reaction during the biosynthesis of phosphinothricin tripeptide. Nature 459:871-4.
Full List: https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&user=3wZk6hAAAAAJ

Research Interests:
My lab studies two unusual aspects of microbial metabolism with important biomedical, biotechnological and environmental ramifications. One set of projects explores production and consumption of reduced phosphorus compounds. Our research has revealed a surprising diversity of phosphorus redox chemistry in biological systems, with significant ramifications for the global phosphorus cycle. We are particularly interested in the discovery and characterization of novel phosphonic acid antibiotics via genome-mining approaches, with specific projects aimed at elucidation of their biosynthetic pathways and exploration of their molecular diversity and bioactivity. A second set of projects focuses on the development and application of genetic techniques for methanogenic Archaea. This research aims to characterize energy conserving methanogenic metabolism and the mechanisms of archaeal gene regulation, which impact a number of important to human problems, including the production of renewable fuels from biological materials, waste treatment, and climate change.

I am honored to be considered for the position of ASM President. I am a passionate advocate for the microbial sciences and strongly believe that our Society has both the opportunity and the obligation to bring our understanding of the microbial world to governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as to the public at large. At the same time, ASM has the unique ability to advocate for our members as we navigate the inevitable and ongoing challenges that face us. The strength of ASM advocacy stems from the importance of the microbes themselves. Thus, in addition to their critical role as agents of infectious disease and the source of many important medicines, it is essential that our outreach activities emphasize the roles of microbes in global nutrient cycles, climate homeostasis, synthetic biology, green chemistry, waste treatment, animal health and crop productivity (to name a few). Indeed, the many ways that microbiology touches our existence is the best argument for continued support of our discipline. I am also mindful of the many challenges we face within our discipline, including the need to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce, to develop an effective strategy that allows ASM publications to thrive in a world with increased online publishing, ever changing open access policies, and the needs for continuing education and scientific interaction for our members.
My ideas for the future of ASM have been shaped by an appreciation for the microbial world gained throughout my career. My life-long fascination with nature and biology led me to pursue undergraduate degrees in both Anthropology and Microbiology. My Ph.D. research on phosphonate catabolism by E. coli introduced me to the diversity of microbial metabolism and elegance of genetic analysis, while my post-doctoral studies introduced to me the unusual biochemistry of methane-producing archaea and the complexities of anaerobic life. My entire academic career has been at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where I currently serve as the G. William Arends Professor in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and leader of the Mining Microbial Genomes research theme at the Institute of Genomic Biology. My research continues to focus on the production and consumption of reduced phosphorus compounds and the genetics, biochemistry and physiology of methane-producing Archaea. I have taught both advanced and introductory microbiology classes; I especially enjoy the latter because it affords me the opportunity to bring our discipline to those who have yet to learn about the wonders of the microbial world. I have also served as co-director of the Cold Harbor Spring Laboratories’ Advanced Bacterial Genetics course and the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratories’ Microbial Diversity course. I am elected fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology (2010) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (2016). Throughout my career, I have been an active member of ASM, having served as Division K Chair (2004) and on the American Academy of Microbiology Committee on Elections (2014-18). I have been an Editor for the Journal of Bacteriology since 2011.

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