My name is Jonathan Lombard and this website summarizes my main scientific interests and previous or ongoing research. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, NC, USA.
The diversity of animals and plants is a fascinating subject that is becoming the more and more popular with increasing concerns about nature preservation. However, it is frequently disregarded that, indeed, most of the genetic, metabolic and physiologic biodiversity is to be found among unicellular microorganisms. Most of the biosphere is actually microbial and microorganisms have dominated life on Earth for billions of years. Describing and studying how this astonishing microbial diversity emerged and evolved is one of the major challenges in current evolutionary studies, and also my central scientific interest. Within this large domain, I focus on the large-scale evolution of the main taxa that we know today, with emphasis in describing early organisms like the last common ancestor of all living organisms (the cenancestor) or the last common ancestor of each domain of life (Archaea, Bacteria and Eucarya), and their subsequent evolution to the organisms that we know today.
Metabolism is a large plastic network which may change a lot both from one taxon to another and from organism to another (and even within the same individual!). In spite of this diversity of functions and regulations, there are many essential functions that remain similar among most cells and, therefore, they can be used to study their evolution. As a result, one of my goals is help describing the evolution of metabolism in a tree-of-life scale.
In recent years there has been a startling accumulation of public genomic data resulting from the development of new, fast and efficient sequencing methods and projects. This allows the comparison of homologous genes (genes that have evolved from a common ancestor) among organisms. Molecular comparisons have had a great impact in all evolutionary studies, but this has been even more particularly the case for microorganisms since previous morphological or physiological comparisons among unicellular organisms (especially archaea and bacteria) were not resolutive. Now that we are able to compare genomes, gene or protein sequences among them, many efforts are carried out to study the evolution of organisms or of discrete cell machineries. These topics are of major interest for me and, in my work, I apply the same kind of approaches to the evolution of widespread metabolic pathways and cell machineries.
We generally forget it in our daily work but, in science, what we already know (or think we know) impacts all the aspects of our research: the assumptions we make, the methods we assume to be appropriate to test or disprove our hypotheses and the way we explain our results. We cannot live out of our time, but I really think that knowing more about the history of our field is much more than a complement for cultured people: it may help us putting into perspective the ongoing research. Major breakthroughs often open new subjects and methods, but fashionable science can also hide fascinating interrogations. In the end, are our questions quite as original as we think?