The University of Minnesota has a longstanding tradition of excellence in microbiology research and education. The Microbiology Track faculty of the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology Graduate program draws its membership of preeminent bacteriologists, virologists and mycologists from a diversity of academic departments. The Microbiology Track is an exciting and dynamic community of scholars and distinguished investigators engaged in research at the forefront of areas including microbial pathogenesis, regulation of viral gene expression, molecular genetics and cell signaling. Major initiatives in the development of state-of-the-art microbial genomics and proteomics centers attest to our commitment to the advancement of the innovative research strategies that are the hallmark of our program. Microbiology Track research activities are strongly supported by both public and private funding agencies. In addition, highly productive industry collaborations include projects focused on bioremediation as well as the development of novel drugs and vaccines for the treatment of infectious diseases and cancer.

The Microbiology Track offers students a challenging educational experience in a stimulating and nurturing environment. We are committed to providing outstanding scientific training to graduate students in the areas of scientific methodology and critical thought, and to serving as mentors for the intellectual development required for advanced study and research. We invite you to join us to pursue your scientific interests and advance your career goals as a member of our research community.



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Viral Pathogenesis and Molecular Virology

Faculty Researchers
Aliota, BierleBoris-LawrieBresnahanHaase, Herschhorn, LangloisLiangLyMansky, SkinnerSouthern 

  • What are the cellular and viral determinants controlling the entry of viruses into host cells and mediating viral particle assembly, replication, packaging and disease pathogenesis?
  • How is viral persistence in the host initiated and maintained?
  • What is the mode of sexual mucosal transmission of HIV and what is the profile of viral gene expression in host cells?
  • What factors control herpes simplex virus lytic and latent infections?
  • What factors regulate arenavirus replication and virulence in infected animals?
  • How do cellular signaling pathways control influenza virus replication?
  • What molecular strategies do viruses use to evade host innate and adaptive immune responses to viral infections?
  • How can molecular analysis of viral replication lead to the identification of novel targets for therapeutic intervention?
  • What is the molecular basis for antiviral drug resistance?
  • How do innate immune mechanisms protect cells from viral infection?

Bacterial Pathogenesis and Mechanisms of Persistence

Faculty Researchers
Baughn, Ji, Mohr, Schottel, StaleyTischler

  • How do microbial pathogens sense and respond to the environmental changes during the transition from the free-living state to the parasitic state within a host?
  • How do bacterial virulence factors such as biofilm formation and protein secretion systems enable pathogen growth or evasion of immune responses within the host?
  • What pathogen metabolic pathways, nutrient acquisition systems or essential proteins are needed for virulence?
  • How do pathogenic microbes interact with or disrupt the normal microbiota to cause infection?
  • What are the modes of action of antibiotics?  How do pathogens become antibiotic tolerant or resistant?
  • Pathogens we study: Bordetella pertussis, Burkholderia cepacia, Clostridioides difficile, Enterococcus faecalis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus aureus

Fungal Pathogenesis and Morphogenesis

Faculty Researchers 
BoulwareDavis, Selmecki

  • How does chromosome structure and chromatin assembly control cellular morphogenesis and how is this related to senescence, or 'aging'?
  • What are the signals to which cells respond to undergo the physiological changes associated with senescence?
  • How does the host immune response to infection determine the outcome of disease?
  • What are the virulence factors that enable fungi such as Candida albicans or Cryptococcus neoformans to cause disease?
  • How does the dynamic organization of the C. albicans genome relate to the pathogenic potential of this fungus?
  • What is the role in vivo of the recently discovered mating reaction in C. albicans?
  • How does the genome control the response to environmental signals that stimulate different morphogenetic responses in C. albicans and other fungi?

Environmental Sensing and Development in Microbes

Faculty Researchers
Baughn, Bazurto, Bond, CostaDavisFixen, Hamilton, Harcombe, Selmecki, StaleyWackett 

  • How do bacteria and fungi perceive changes in their environment and what are the molecular mechanisms used to translate those perceptions into appropriate cellular responses?
  • How do bacterial pathogens such as Bordetella pertussis and Enterococcus faecalisengage in cell-cell communication, and what is the outcome of this signaling?
  • How is the conjugative transfer of an enterococcal antibiotic resistance plasmid controlled by a peptide pheromone produced by the recipient cell?
  • What Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium genes are involved in host/microbe recognition and in the establishment of symbiotic, nitrogen-fixing nodules in plants?

Genetic Engineering of Microorganisms for Biotechnology

Faculty Researchers
Bond, Boris-Lawrie, Bresnahan, Fixen, GralnickLiangLyManskySchottelWackett

  • In what ways can the physiology and genetics of lactococci be manipulated to improve the strains used in the food industry?
  • How can molecular biology technology be used to study microbial metabolism as well as to construct novel biodegradation pathways to allow bacteria to degrade environmental pollutants?
  • How can bifidobacteria be manipulated to improve their competitiveness in the human large intestine?
  • How can bacteria be used to develop novel anti-cancer therapies?
  • How can viruses be engineered for dissecting molecular and cellular processes as well as for therapeutics?

Microbial Genomics

Faculty Researchers
Baughn, BondDavisGralnickHaaseJi, LangloisManskySelmeckiSkinner, Staley, TischlerWackett

  • How can information derived from microbial genomic sequences be used to discover new drug targets and to study the organism's biology and metabolism?
  • Which fungal, viral and bacterial genes are transcribed preferentially in the host or under certain laboratory culture conditions?
  • How can next-generation sequencing provide insights into microbial population structure, evolution and microbe-host interactions?