Dr. Root is interested in simplicity and complexity. He studies how life works from molecules to cells, to individuals, to communities and is especially fascinated by cities and the oceans with their astonishing diversity of life. He takes a comparative approach by investigating human biology, as well as ancient organisms like cyanobacteria. This includes zooming in on the awesome structures and functions of their molecules, zooming out to see their evolution, and seeking algorithmic beauty. He has developed technology for measuring genes, cells, and individuals, alongside models to predict their behavior. For example, he has worked on modelling colony growth of bacteria, as well as designing combinations of drugs to treat prostate cancer, both of which involve cooperation among cells and its disruption. His current work zooms out further to examine microbes in the oceans and the potential for dysfunction in important ecosystem functions, such as the nitrogen cycle. He aims to build data-driven models linking genes, organisms, geochemistry, and satellite images to ecosystem functions. He enjoys learning from other disciplines through the unifying frameworks of data science.
Prior to returning to Columbia, Dr. Root received a Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Cornell University, an M.A. in Mathematics Education from Brooklyn College, CUNY, and a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University. He is a member of the International Society of Computational Biology.