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.

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Congratulations to the Lind Lab on their new publication entitled “Reversible suppression of T cell function in the bone marrow microenvironment of acute myeloid leukemia.” It was accepted in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Congratulations to Dr. Eric Barklis on getting a new MRF grant entitled “Analysis of HIV-1 Gag-Envelope Protein Interactions.”

Congratulations to Dr. Fikadu Tafesse on receiving a new R01 grant entitled “Determining the role of sphingolipids in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection.”

We are very proud to announce that two MMI Professors, Scott Landfear and Mike Riscoe, have been elected to the American Academy of Microbiology - the honorific society of the American Society for Microbiology.  This is a richly deserved honor and celebrates Dr. Landfear’s work in the field of molecular parasitology, which he helped pioneer in the early 1980s. The award also recognizes Dr. Landfear’s extensive work on nutrient uptake pathways in Leishmania (as well as trypanosomes and Plasmodium), with particular emphasis on glucose and purines.   This prestigious honor recognizes Dr. Riscoe’s pioneering work with an innovative high-throughput screening approach to discover novel antimalarial drugs. The accolade also recognizes Professor Riscoe’s current work to establish the use of a compound not only as an antimalarial drug but also as a prophylactic therapeutic, which highlights the importance of his research for public health.

Congratulations to Dr. Bill Messer and the Messer Lab on receiving a new R01 grant entitled "Long term immunity following yellow fever vaccination.”

Congratulations to Iris Jones, awarded the NIH Individual Fellowship – F31 Grant!

Congratulations to Sam Hobbs for receiving a fundable score on his F31 NRSA Fellowship.

Congratulations to Jeff Nolz, Ph.D., on his promotion to associate professor! This career milestone is a testament to his accomplishments and to his trajectory in investigating the mechanisms of T cell trafficking, activation, function and differentiation.

Congratulations to Rosenzweig Lab! The lab has been awarded with NIH R01 funding, and Ruth Napier, Ph.D., has been awarded with the VA Career Development Award. 

SOM News: Leadership team selected for new Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences.

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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