Speakers (to date)

Brian Richter

Jack Gilbert (KEYNOTE) earned his Ph.D. from Unilever and Nottingham University, United Kingdom, in 2002, and received his postdoctoral training at Queens University, Canada. He subsequently returned to the UK in 2005 to Plymouth Marine Laboratory at a senior scientist until his move to Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in 2010. Currently, Professor Gilbert is the director of the University of Chicago Microbiome Center and a professor of surgery. He is also group leader for Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory, associate director of the Institute of Genomic and Systems Biology, research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History, and senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Dr. Gilbert uses molecular analysis to test fundamental hypotheses in microbial ecology. He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters on metagenomics and approaches to ecosystem ecology. He is currently working on generating observational and mechanistic models of microbial communities in natural, urban, built and human ecosystems. He is on the advisory board of the Genomic Standards Consortium (www.gensc.org), and is the founding editor in chief of mSystems journal. In 2014, he was recognized on Crain’s Business Chicago’s 40 Under 40 List, and in 2015, he was listed as one of the 50 most influential scientists by Business Insider, and in the Brilliant Ten by Popular Scientist.



Gwyn Beattie (KEYNOTE) is currently the Robert Earle Buchanan Distinguished Professor of Bacteriology in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Iowa State University. Her teaching and research is focused on the genomics and ecology of plant-associated bacteria, with current projects on the influence of microbial communities on plant water use efficiency and the factors enabling bacterial pathogens to use light and environmental stress signals to colonize leaves. She is a member of the American Society for Microbiology and The American Phytopathological Society (APS), the incoming APS Public Policy Board Chair, and a Co-author of the Phytobiomes Roadmap (www.phytobiomes.org).



Brian Richter

Matt Koci is a faculty member in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science at NC State University. Dr. Koci's research seeks to decrease reliance on vaccines and antibiotics by examining the body's response to disease and developing therapies that stimulate the body to work more efficiently. For the past decade, Dr. Koci's laboratory focused on understanding how changes in the microbiome of the chicken gut influence gut function and overall health. These studies demonstrated that changes in gut bacterial populations are associated with changes in immune activation. Now, Dr. Koci's research is identifying chemical signals that allow gut bacteria to communicate with the immune system. The goal: use these signals to modulate immune responses. By increasing gut bacteria during times of disease and decreasing immune activity when it's not needed, his research will create a reserve of energy to support growth.


Brian Richter

Rob Dunn is an ecologist in the Department of Applied Ecology at NC State University. His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of the daily life of societies, be they those of humans or ants. This includes work on face mites, belly button bacteria, beetles that ride on ants as they move from place to place and house cats. He has published more than a hundred scientific articles (www.robdunnlab.com). Among those articles, he is really fond of some that no one ever reads and would like to rewrite others that get read fairly often. His work often engages the public, either directly in participatory science (www.yourwildlife.org), or through telling stories about the process of science. It is in telling those stories that Rob writes for Natural History, National Geographic, Scientific American, New Scientist and BBC Wildlife magazines. He is also coordinating the writing of eight books with the University of Chicago Press written on the basis of data collected by citizen scientists, on ants, spiders, arthropods of homes and microscopic life in homes. He has written three books for general audiences, Every Living Thing, The Wild Life of Our Bodies and, most recently, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, which tells the stories of the, often fumbling, human attempts to understand and mend the human heart over the course of the last eight thousand years.



Dr. Richard H. Linton is dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State University. Prior to this role, Linton served as Department Chair of Food Science and Technology at the Ohio State University (2011-2012), and as a faculty member of the Department of Food Science at Purdue University (1994-2011).  While at Purdue University, Linton also served as the Director (and founder) of the Center for Food Safety Engineering and as the Associate Director of Agricultural Research Programs.   

As dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Linton leads a college of more than 325 faculty housed in 16 different departments, more than 2,500 undergraduate students and nearly 750 graduate students. Under his direction, the college has developed a new strategic plan that focuses on building people, programs, and partnerships. Collaboration with industry and government is critical to the mission of the college, and Linton’s dedication is demonstrated through the Plant Sciences Initiative and the Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative, two endeavors that have the potential to create jobs, find solutions to global challenges in agriculture and foster support for local growers.

Linton earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, a Master’s Degree in Food Science and a Doctorate in Food Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  




Stewards of the Future fundraising operates under the auspices of and is co-hosted by the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization. Federal Tax ID #56-6049304. Proceeds will be used to support the conference and future initiatives of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.