Advance Awards Life Sciences Winner
A mineralogist-turned-microbiologist, Jill Banfield has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of the structure, function and diversity of microbial communities in natural environments and the human body. Jill has pioneered approaches to study the diversity of microbes in the Earth’s microbiomes resulting in a new rendition of the Tree of Life. This pioneering work created the platform to explore the role of gut bacteria in health and disease in humans. Her contributions to geosciences are also significant, culminating with her recognition by the American Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society and Australian Academy of Science. In addition to being a brilliant and distinguished scientist, Jill is a wise and generous mentor. She has trained many of the up-and-coming stars of her field and has strongly supported their career advancement.
Born in Armidale, Jillian Banfield was educated at the Australian National University where she completed her bachelor’s and master’s degree, before gaining a PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Johns Hopkins University. Jill was a faculty member between 1990 – 2001 at UW Madison and U Tokyo. Since 2001, she has been a researcher and professor at the University of California Berkeley with an appointment in the earth and environmental sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Jill’s current research spans from field sites in Northern California to Australia and from subjects including astrobiology (microbes in space) to studying the intricacy of the Earth’s microbiomes, including the microbiomes in health and disease. She has conducted extensive research on natural and synthetic nanomaterials, exploring the oriented attachment-based mechanism for growth of nanoparticles and its implications for the development of defect microstructures. Jill leads the Microbial Research initiative within the Innovative Genomics Institute, is affiliated with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and has a position at the University of Melbourne, Australia.