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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Most Recently Recruited Faculty

Ruth Napier (small)

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 Job Openings

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

Ruth Napier, Assistant Professor. Our lab is recruiting graduate students interested in understanding the cellular and molecular...more

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Congratulations to Felicity Coulter, Dr. Fikadu Tafesse and Dr. William Messer on their recent publication in Scientific Reports, entitled, “A lyophilized colorimetric RT‑LAMP test kit for rapid, low‑cost, at‑home molecular testing of SARS‑CoV‑2 and other pathogens”.

Congratulations to Dr. Bahareh Ajami and the Ajami Lab on receiving the Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant for their project entitled: Microglia regulation of Alzheimer’s Disease pathology and progression.

Congratulations to the Rauch Lab on receiving new R01 grant funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for their project entitled: The role of the tuft cell inflammasome in infection.

Congratulations to Dr. Fikadu Tafesse and the Tafesse Lab on their recent publication in JAMA, entitled, “Antibody Response and Variant Cross-Neutralization After SARS-CoV-2 Breakthrough Infection”.

We are excited to congratulate Dr. Georgiana Purdy on her promotion to full Professor in MMI as of July 1, 2021.

We are excited to congratulate Dr. Bill Messer on his promotion to Associate Professor in MMI as of July 1, 2021.

Congratulations to Dr. Jonathan Pruneda and the Pruneda Lab! They just received funding on an R35 MIRA grant from NIGMS on their project, entitled: “Exploiting bacterial effector proteins to study human ubiquitin signaling”

Congratulations to the Nolz & Messer lab on their new publication in the Journal of Immunology, entitle, "Cellular and Humoral Immune Responses in Mice Immunized with Vaccinia Virus Expressing the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein".

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."

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.