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Microbiology & Immunology

Lauren Blaha receives awardCongratulations to Lauren Blaha, a second year medical student, who won the T1 Translational Science Award for the Medical Student Research Award Day. Her project focused on Using High Dimensional Flow Cytometry and Machine Learning to Evaluate T Cell Function in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Patients Undergoing Graft-versus-Host.

Grayson-McIver graduation 2017

Congratulations Dr. McIver

"I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the Department of Microbiology & Immunology to complete my training as a scientist. When I began, my knowledge of immunology was limited by assumptions derived from clinical observations, and my basic science skills were incomplete. Throughout my Ph.D. studies I was provided a welcoming environment where I have been able to further my understanding of immunology and perfect my skills in transitional research. As my project grew, so did the support. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the many talented scientists and mentors in the department."



A Great Place to Learn - Grayson Receives Unsung Hero Award from Medical Students

Jason Grayson, PhD, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology, was presented with an “Unsung Hero” award on April 10, 2017 by Medical Students (MS2020).  Dr. Grayson served as key instructor during Cellular and Subcellular Processes (CSP), a year 1 medical school course which teaches biochemistry, immunology, microbiology, genetics, and virology.   This course is led by co-course directors Greg Kucera, PhD and Lane Smith, MD and is under the leadership of the Assistant Dean of Preclinical Curriculum, Patrick Reynolds, MD and the Senior Associate Dean of Healthcare Education, Mary Claire O’Brien, MD.    

Students approached Dr. O’Brien during the course to extend their thanks for Dr. Grayson’s dedication to education.  Dr. Grayson, responsible mainly for the immunology content in the CSP course, also received rave reviews on post-course student evaluations.  The students commented about his use of a new instructional method called “boosts” co-developed with an academic affairs instructional designer, Ms. Gia Digiacobbe, which reinforced topics taught during lectures.  Students commented that immunology is not easy but Dr. Grayson’s presentation was very clear and well organized.  The significant time outside of lecture spent by Dr. Grayson to enhance student learning and experience was very much appreciated.   

Katlin Poladian, a MS 2020 medical student taking Dr. Grayson’s course commented, “Dr. Grayson's patience is unparalleled when it comes to answering questions regarding immunology. The time he sacrificed so that my classmates and I could fully appreciate and understand the material did not go unnoticed. We are so grateful for his engaging lectures and somewhat unconventional teaching methods that made understanding things like Major Histocompatibility Complexes and the function of plasma cells unforgettable. Through his boost questions, office hours, and review sessions he instilled confidence in us and our knowledge of immunology. Dr. Grayson is an unsung hero of immunology!” 

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Jason Grayson on a job well done and his contribution to making this a great place to learn and discover.  


Jerome McKay The Hub

Jerome McKay: Bootleg Scientist

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology has a vibrant research program in host-pathogen interaction and immune regulation with departmental faculty who are highly dedicated to graduate student training.  

Research in the department is concentrated on pathogens that are of substantial clinical importance including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Bordetella pertussis, influenza virus, herpesvirus, and adenovirus.  Many of these pose particular threats for infants and young children. 

Faculty with expertise in bacteriology and virology have programs focused on elucidating the mechanisms utilized by pathogens to cause disease, with the ultimate goal of understanding how we might better combat these infectious agents. The programs of faculty focused on the immune response seek to understand how B cells and T cells are regulated following infection with the goal of promoting a more efficacious response.

An emerging collaborative area of focus in the department is coinfection with multiple pathogens.  Here, faculty with expertise in bacteriology, virology, and immunology are working together to understand the disease that is caused when multiple infections are present, e.g. pneumococcus and influenza virus. Coinfections have been appreciated as a clinically significant problem for a number of years, with one of the most well known examples being the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Deora 4-2015
Dr. Raj Deora is working to develop a novel vaccine against whooping cough

Because vaccines are the most effective way to limit disease, many faculty in the department have projects centered on the development of improved vaccines.  These include pneumococcus, which is responsible for pneumonia, Bordetella, the causative agent of whooping cough, and influenza.  While vaccines are available for these pathogens, new approaches are greatly needed. For example, the current vaccine for B. pertussis is comprised of purified proteins.  While capable of eliciting an immune response, this vaccine is only partially protective.  As a result, whooping cough is on the rise.  Vaccines against pneumococcus are also available, but immunity wanes over time and responses cannot be effectively boosted, leaving individuals, especially the elderly, susceptible to disease. Individuals at the other end of the age spectrum, young infants, are also highly vulnerable to severe disease following infection.  As a result of a weakened immune system, vaccines work poorly in infants.  Efforts are ongoing to develop vaccines for influenza that will work in this at-risk infant population.

Dr. Martha Alexander-Miller is developing influenza vaccines that will work in young infants. 

Faculty with expertise in immunology, cell damage and repair, and virology are also investigating mechanisms of tumorigenesis and ways to combat cancer.  Faculty research is focused on harnessing the power of the immune system to treat cancer is broadening our understanding of how cancer-based vaccines, cancer-fighting immune cells, and immunotherapy targeting checkpoint inhibitors might effectively treat malignancies.  Work on the regulation of herpesviruses latency is laying the groundwork for understanding herpesvirus-mediated oncogenesis.  Finally, faculty research on oncolytic adenoviruses and their mechanisms of inducing DNA damage is leading to optimized oncolytic viruses for use as anti-cancer therapies. Microbiology and Immunology faculty work in close collaboration with fellow faculty members in our NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with the goal of leveraging expertise to devise novel and effective approaches to treat cancer.

We invite you to explore the research of our faculty in more detail, which is presented in their individual research descriptions as well as in the video links on this page.  We also invite prospective students to view the additional information about our graduate program.

Mizel 4-2015

Dr. Steve Mizel has created a vaccine against the bubonic plague


Lance Blevins

"Words cannot begin to express the gratitude I have towards Dr. Alexander-Miller and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology for molding me into a thoughtful and thorough scientist. The training I received in the department was exceptional and best described as a group effort. Over the course of my training, the department felt less like a rigid academic structure and more like a family. Never once did I feel that I couldn’t approach any of the faculty, staff, or students with questions. Nor did I ever feel unwelcome just seeking an ear to bend regarding my own research project or life in general. I feel that this atmosphere goes above and beyond what is required to help shape the young minds of tomorrow, and my journey to attain my PhD was an exciting and positive venture as a result. To have such a concentrated group of intelligent, kind, and just people in a single department is truly a blessing. My experiences with my mentor and the faculty will stay with me for the rest of my life and have truly made me a better scientist and a better person."  Lance Blevins


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Microbiology & Immunology
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