Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D.

The Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology comprises a cadre of interactive and interdisciplinary faculty with diverse expertise. The overall mission of our department involves research and education, while bringing together basic and translational efforts through close collaborations.

-Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D.

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Welcoming new faculty

Ruth Napier Photo

The Molecular Microbiology & Immunology department is pleased to welcome Ruth Napier, Ph.D., as an assistant professor as of August 2020. Dr. Napier’s research employs her expertise in biological pathways that mediate infection & host defense to understand novel mechanisms that trigger autoimmunity. During her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Napier discovered a unique T cell-intrinsic role for the microbial sensor NOD2 in protection against autoimmune arthritis. Her laboratory will focus on how innate signaling molecules control the development of pathogenic T cell responses in autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases including Blau Syndrome, uveitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. To do this the Napier lab will utilize a translational research platform that integrates data derived from the clinic with experimental models of disease. Her long-term goal is to use this information to aid in the discovery of innovative therapeutics that aim to reprogram pathogenic immune cells back to a quiescent state and thereby stop disease before irreversible damage occurs.

Bahareh Ajami, Ph.D.

Please join us in welcoming Bahareh Ajami, Ph.D., as an assistant professor, to the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Behavioral Neurosciece, as of September 2019. Dr. Ajami’s research is focused on advancing understanding of the function and biology of the brain’s intrinsic immune cells: microglia. 
Her previous work has established the fate and origin of microglia in the brain during health and disease. In her most recent work, by adopting a novel single-cell proteomics approach, CyTOF (mass cytometry), Dr. Ajami has demonstrated that microglia are a network of cells comprised of several subpopulations with distinct immune responses in different neurological disorders. This work has resulted in the discovery of a new therapeutic target for Multiple Sclerosis and ALS disease and has recently been licensed by a biotech company for further development. Read full introduction.


MMI faculty with openings for graduate students

Jeff Nolz, Associate Professor.  My laboratory utilizes mouse models of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections to define the cellular...more

Jonathan Pruneda, Assistant Professor. Our lab is seeking graduate researchers to join our effort to characterize how pathogenic bacteria..more

Isabella Rauch, Assistant Professor. In the Rauch lab we are interested in understanding how epithelial barrier tissues recognize...more

Fikadu Tafesse, Assistant Professor. The Tafesse lab is interested in studying the roles of cellular lipids in bacterial and viral pathogenesis ..more

Alejandro Aballay, Professor & Chair. Our lab has a broad research program encompassing genetics, functional genomics and neurobiological..more

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Congratulations to Dr. Ruth Napier on her project, entitled, “Understanding how the CARD9-neutrophil-Th17 axis controls ankylosing spondylitis” for being funded by the Arthritis National Research Foundation.

Congratulations to the Messer Lab and the Tafesse Lab on their recent publication in MedRxiv, entitled, “Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 variants by convalescent and vaccinated serum."

Congratulations to Cam Roberts from the Pruneda Lab for being awarded Honorable Mention by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program!

Congratulations to Alina Krollenbrock and the Riscoe lab on the publication of their new paper in ACS Infectious Diseases, entitles, “Robenidine Analogues Are Potent Antimalarials in Drug-Resistant Plasmodium falciparum”.

Congratulations to Dr. Fikadu Tafesse and the Tafesse Lab on receiving a new grant award for their project titled: “Novel strategies to increase CD8 T cell migration into lymphoid follicles to augment ART-mediated HIV eradication.”

Congratulations to Dr. David Johnson and the Johnson Lab! They have received new grant funding for their project, entitled, “Human Cytomegalovirus Entry into Cells Mediated by Pentamer and Trimer Complexes.”

Congratulations Dr. Mike Munks on receiving grant funding from Roche Glycart AG for a project, entitled, “Analysis of biological activity and anti-tumor efficacy of tumor targeted soluble MHC peptide complexes in immunocompetent mice.”

Congratulations to Dr. Eric Barklis and the Barklis Lab! They just received grant funding for their project, entitled, “Novel probes to target ras cancers.”

Congratulations to Dr. Ruth Napier and Dr. Holly Rosenzweig’s labs on the publication of their new paper, “T cell–intrinsic role for Nod2 in protection against Th17-mediated uveitis” in Nature Communications.

We have some exciting news from the Johnson Lab related to COVID-19 testing. They are collaborating with a lab at VGTI and Donna Hansel in the COVID testing laboratory to get testing of COVID antibodies going across the state of Oregon.

Congratulations Dr. Mike Munks on receiving grant funding from the Brenden-Colson Center for your project, entitled, “Efficacy of a cytomegalovirus-vectored cancer vaccine, targeting TROP-2, in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer.”

View our news archive to see more department news and recognitions.

NIH Training Grant

‘Interactions at the Microbe-Host Interface’ NIH supported T32 training grant.

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For grad or undergrad students with strong interest in research careers.