Germs Are Your Friends, Top UC San Diego Scientist Shares the Dirt

A noted scholar and a world-leader in microbiome research, Rob Knight, Ph.D. will take guests inside the human body and share the dirt on the microbiome, the focus of his new book, published in June 2017. On Tuesday, October 24, Knight will discuss Dirt Is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System, from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. in Geisel Library’s Seuss Room. The UC San Diego Library talk is free to attend and open to the public. A reception and a book signing with Dr. Knight will follow. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event from the UC San Diego Bookstore. Click here to RSVP.

Until recently, the human microbiome was virtually unheard of, but now it’s drawn all kinds of attention and has become the latest buzz word in medicine. Knight, director of the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation (part of the White House’s National Microbiome Initiative), has found with the help of other researchers that the bacteria living in and on our bodies are critical contributors to human and environmental health. At his October 24 talk, Knight will discuss how those microbes are far from the freeloaders they were once thought to be. On the contrary, they help us digest, process nutrients, and are constantly interacting with—and helping shape—our immune systems. 

“It’s not just the microbes in our gut that are important,” said Knight, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Jacobs School of Engineering. “Microbes all over our body turn out to be critical to a whole range of differences that make us who we are.”

Food allergies, obesity, colon cancer and many other conditions have been linked to alterations in the human gut microbiome. Growing evidence suggests gut microbes also influence the brain, potentially affecting mood, behavior, and psychiatric illnesses.

The rush of interest in the microbiome and its deep connection to our health has led to a rise in misinformation. In Dirt Is Good, Knight and co-author Jack Gilbert, Ph.D. take a fresh look at the microbiome and provide answers to pressing health questions regarding germs. Knight and Gilbert know the importance of having scientifically sound health information first-hand, being parents themselves. Both scientists wrote the book with Sandra Blakeslee, an award-winning science writer.

Knight also co-founded the Earth Microbiome Project; the American Gut Project, the world’s largest crowdsourced citizen science effort; and the company Biota, Inc., which uses DNA from microbes in the subsurface to guide oilfield decisions. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Microbiology. In 2017, he received the Massry Prize which recognizes outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health and in 2015, he received the Vilcek Prize in Creative Promise for the Life Sciences. Knight is the author of Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and co-author of Sustainable Shale Oil and Gas (Elsevier, 2017). In addition, Knight was a featured speaker at TED in 2014.

For more information about the event, please contact the event coordinator, Mariah Fellows at