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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

Meet Jarrad Hampton-Marcell, microbial ecologist

Biosciences researcher, ACT-SO lead and sports coach.

Jarrad Hampton-Marcell is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) with a joint appointment at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in the Biosciences division, specializing in microbial ecology. In that role, he studies how microbial communities in the human body and the environment affect human health and whether bacteria can be manipulated to improve health and prevent diseases.

My research attempts to identify microbial taxa that kind of tip those scales of human health status and elicit mechanisms that drive host-microbe interactions which ultimately promote good health,” he said.

Hampton-Marcell’s interest in health and metagenomics research stemmed from his experience as a student-athlete at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). After a football injury classified as a freak accident,” Hampton-Marcell wondered if there were biological markers of stress prior to his injury.

I took that risk or that leap of faith, and it ended up turning into a 10-year career that led to a doctoral degree in ecology and evolution from UIC and now a position as an assistant professor.” — Jarrad Hampton-Marcell

Could there have been a way for me to understand my body better from a biological context?” he wondered regarding the football injury. Could I have done something to alter my lifestyle whether it be a change in diet, physical activity or sleep habits that would have improved my body’s overall response to the physical demands of training and competition?”

After receiving his master’s degree in integrative biology from UIUC, Hampton-Marcell was faced with a decision to either accept a permanent position as a research associate at a pharmaceutical company or to take a risk and work a three-month position on a research project at Argonne.

So, I took that risk or that leap of faith, and it ended up turning into a 10-year career that led to a doctoral degree in ecology and evolution from UIC and now a position as an assistant professor,” Hampton-Marcell said. Not turning down that opportunity and being open to change, wanting to learn new skills, and really relying on mentorship was how I got there, so I have no regrets whatsoever.”

In addition to his role as a researcher, Hampton-Marcell co-leads the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) high school research program at Argonne, the goal of which is to increase the number of African Americans in STEM careers. ACT-SO is sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and collaborates with community partners in DuPage County.

Through the ACT-SO program at Argonne, high school students conduct their own research with the guidance of scientists from Argonne, DOE’s Fermilab and UIC. We have students that have submitted publications, filed for intellectual patents, and presented their findings at national conferences. The most rewarding part is that we have students from our earlier cohorts who are currently pursuing their doctoral degree,” Hampton-Marcell said. This all came out of the idea of wanting to develop our workforce and increase our representation of minority communities at the Lab, as well as foster early engagement. We’ve been doing that since 2013, and it’s something that I’m very proud of.”

In his free time, Hampton-Marcell enjoys spending time with his wife and children, exploring restaurants in Chicago and coaching sports. To support students interested in athletics, he is the Director of the Athlete Research for Heroic Efforts Rising Over Humanity, a sports performance foundation that develops student-athletes in Chicago through academic tutoring, mentorship and athletic training.

There are a lot of student-athletes in the Chicagoland area who are very talented but aren’t necessarily getting the college readiness skills that they need,” he said. We work with those students to develop those skills so that they can qualify to go to college and play.”

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.