Microbiology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology

The Microbiology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology specialization concentrates on the study of host-pathogen interactions at the molecular and cellular levels. Faculty research programs focus on how microorganisms interact with surfaces, how they survive inside and outside of their hosts, how signals are relayed between the microorganism and the host, and how the host responds to these signals.


Faculty in this area study host-parasite interactions to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for disease, elucidate the functioning of the host's immune response, examine genetic mechanisms that underlie signal transduction, identify and elucidate the genomic content of pathogens, and explore fundamental properties of viruses. The novelty of this specialization is that students can use bacterial, fungal or viral platforms to study the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to disease and the mechanisms preventing disease in plant and/or animal hosts.


  • Students with research interests in Microbiology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology should apply to the Biological Sciences (BISI) Graduate Program and, specifically, to the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MOCB) concentration area within that program. 
  • The MOCB concentration area is designed to ensure that students receive a broad background in Cell Biology, Molecular Genetics, and Microbiology, plus advanced training in their area of research.
  • Our primary aim is to help students develop not only the technical laboratory skills, but also the critical thinking skills necessary for a rewarding career as an independent scientist.
  • All first year Ph.D. students enroll in core courses, participate in lab rotations, and attend seminars.
  • The student's advisory committee, in consultation with the student and his/her research advisor, will design a course of study tailored to the student's research plan and career objectives.
  • This program will include formal courses, opportunities for critical discussion of the scientific literature through seminar courses and journal clubs, and interactions with the advisory committee.
  • Recent MOCB Ph.D. students with interests in Microbiology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology have readily obtained post-doctoral appointments at prestigious research universities, tenure-track teaching positions, positions at various government agencies, and jobs with Biotechnology companies.

Graduate Courses in Microbiology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology

  • CBMG688D: Cell Biology I, Structure and Function
  • CBMG688E: Cell Biology II, Signal Transduction
  • CBMG688F: Genetics I, Gene Expression
  • CBMG688I: Genetics II
  • CBMG688W: Techniques in Microscopy
  • CBMG688J: Immunology and Host Defense 
  • CBMG688L: Microbial Pathogenesis
  • CBMG688M: Microbial Genetics
  • CBMG688X: Virology Program Course
  • CBMG688B: Bioethics
  • Current Journal Clubs: Protein Translation; Host Pathogen Interactions; Virology

Faculty in Microbiology, Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology

Norma Andrews, Professor. Ph.D. University of Sao Paulo, Brazil 1983. Molecular strategies used by intracellular pathogens to subvert host cell function, and membrane traffic events involved in the repair of injured plasma membrane.

Spencer Benson, Associate Professor. 
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 1976. Cancer biology and angiogenesis.

Volker Briken, Associate Professor. Ph.D. University of Paris (France), 1998. Molecular mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions and their importance for the virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

James Culver, Affiliate Professor, Center for Biosystems Research, UMBI. Ph.D. University of California, Riverside 1991. Molecular plant-virus interactions; virion assembly, replication, and long-distance movement of tobacco mosaic virus.

Charles F. Delwiche, Professor. Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990. Molecular systematics, phylogeny, and evolution of chloroplasts.

Jeffrey DeStefano, Professor. Ph.D. University of Connecticut, 1990. Mechanism of retroviral reverse transcriptases as it relates toreplication and recombination.

Najib El-Sayed, Associate Professor. Ph.D. Yale University School of Medicine, 1993. Biology of parasitismand host-pathogen interactions using genomic approaches with the ultimate goal of better understanding infection and survival mechanisms.

Eric O. Freed, Adjunct Professor, Chief, Virus-Cell Interaction Section-NIH. 
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990. Molecular biology of HIV-1 replication; retrovirus assembly and release.

Steven W. Hutcheson, Professor. Ph.D. University of California Berkeley, 1982. Molecular plant pathology; molecular biology of Pseudomonas parasitism; role and regulation of Type III protein secretion systems; pathogenicity and non host plant resistance.

Sam W. Joseph, Emeritus Professor. Ph.D. St. John's University (New York), 1970. Bacterial toxins; mechanisms of virulence; emerging causes of human gastroenteritis; chromosomal and extra chromosomal factors related to bacterial pathogenesis.

Vincent Lee, Assistant Professor. Ph.D. University of California - Los Angles, 2000. Host-pathogen interactions, Molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Allosteric regulation of molecular complexes.

Roy Mariuzza, Professor. Ph.D. Biochemistry, University of Paris (1986). Structural and molecular basis of ligand recognition by cell surface receptors of the immune system. 

Kevin S. McIver, Professor and Associate Chair. Ph.D. University of Tennessee Sciences Center, 1994. Host-Bacterial pathogen interactions; Molecular mechanisms of virulence gene regulation in Streptococcus pyogenes; Protein secretion in Francisella tularensis. 

David Mosser, Professor. Ph.D. North Carolina State University, 1983.  Cell and molecularbiology of macrophages and dendritic cells; regulation of cytokine gene expression; host defense response to intracellular pathogens.

Anne Simon, Professor. Ph.D. Indiana University, 1983. Molecular biology of plant-virus interactions.

Wenxia Song, Associate Professor. Ph.D. Kansas State University, 1991.  Antigen transport and signal transduction functions of the B cell antigen receptor.

Daniel C. Stein, Professor. Ph.D. University of Rochester, 1981. Molecular genetics; virulence mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria; Characterization of DNA Restriction and Modification Systems. 

Richard Stewart, Associate Professor. Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1984.  Molecular biology of sensory systems and motility in bacteria.

David Straney, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies. Ph.D. Yale University, 1987. Fungal molecular biology, host recognition in the induction of pathogenicity genes and development.

Wade C. Winkler, Associate Professor. Ph.D. The Ohio State University, 2002. RNA-based regulation of gene expression in bacteria.