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MICaB Graduate Program
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Viral Pathogenesis and Molecular Virology
Bacterial Pathogenesis and Mechanisms of Persistence
Fungal Pathogenesis and Morphogenesis
Environmental Sensing and Development in Microbes
Genetic Engineering of Microorganisms for Biotechnology
Microbial Genomics


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.


The Microbiology Track faculty are engaged in research aimed at answering questions of wide biological interest.

Viral Pathogenesis and Molecular Virology

  • 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?

Faculty Researchers
Bresnahan, Haase, Harris, Langlois, Li, Liang, Ly, Mansky, Rice, Skinner, Southern

Bacterial Pathogenesis and Mechanisms of Persistence

  • How do microbial pathogens sense the environmental changes associated with the transition from the free-living state to the parasitic state within a host?
  • How do the molecular properties of Staphylococcus aureus superantigen correlate with its biological activity?
  • What is the role of components of the cell wall in enterococcal endocarditis?
  • What are the molecular and cellular processes that lead to infection with Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes?
  • What are the important virulence factors produced by the opportunistic pathogen Burkholderia cepacia and how is expression of those factors controlled at the genetic level?
  • How is the expression of genes encoding multiple iron transport systems of Bordetella pertussis prioritized and regulated within the host respiratory tract environment during the course of infection?
  • What are the modes of action of and mechanisms of resistance to anti-tubercular drugs?
  • How does Mycobacterium tuberculosis subvert the host immune response to establish a persistent infection?
  • What are the environmental triggers of the lung that cause Pseudomonas species to form biofilms?

Faculty Researchers
Armstrong, Baughn, Dunny, Ji, Mohr, Schottel, Tischler

Fungal Pathogenesis and Morphogenesis

  • 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?

Faculty Researchers
Davis, Nielsen

Environmental Sensing and Development in Microbes

  • 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 faecalis engage 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?

Faculty Researchers
Armstrong, Baughn, Davis, Dunny, Nielsen, Sadowsky, Wackett

Genetic Engineering of Microorganisms for Biotechnology

  • 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?

Faculty Researchers
Mansky, Sadowsky, Schottel, Wackett

Microbial Genomics

  • 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?

Faculty Researchers
Baughn, Davis, Dunny, Haase, Ji, Mansky, Nielsen, Rice, Skinner, Wackett

The Biomedical Genomics Center
The BioTechnology Institute
The Institute for Molecular Virology
The Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute
The University of Minnesota Center for AIDS Research Initiative
The University of Minnesota Infectious Disease Corridor for Discovery

American Society for Microbiology
American Society for Virology
The Center for Biofilm Engineering
GenoList Genome Browser
The J. Craig Venter Institute (TIGR)
Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
The Quorum Sensing Site
This Week in Virology (TWiV)




Click Here for a listing of

Microbiology Faculty