• 41st Jim McGinnis Memorial Lecture
    March 29, 2019

    The Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology hosted the Forty-first year of the Annual Jim McGinnis Memorial Lecture on March …

  • MGM 2019 Retreat, September 6-8
    February 18, 2019

    The 2019 Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiolgy’s Annual Retreat will again be held at the Blockade Runner Resort in …

  • 2018 MGM Faculty Search
    August 17, 2018

    Tenure-track Faculty Position (Assistant/Associate/Full Professor) Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Duke University School of Medicine Applications are invited for …


Letourneau receives prestigious NSF GRFP Fellowship. Congratulations to Jeff Letourneau, MGM Graduate Student in Lawrence David’s lab, on being awarded this fellowship. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. Jeff is interested in understanding how complex communities of microbes cooperate and compete in the breakdown of dietary fiber in the human gut. In his research, he is using in vitro models to explore how habitual fiber consumption and gut microbiome composition affect an individual’s capacity to derive health benefits from fiber supplementation. He is also leading an upcoming human study to test the effects of increased fiber intake on behavior and cognition.

Heitman and Cowen awarded a CIFAR research program on Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities
Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, James B. Duke Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University and Leah Cowen, PhD, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infections and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto received a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) research program award in the interdisciplinary area of the Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities. Dr. Heitman and Dr. Cowen are co-directors for this new program, The Fungal Kingdom. The goal of the Fungal Kingdom program is to address threats of fungi to humans, animals, and plants/agriculture/food security, and to develop ways to mitigate these threats. More detail on the program is available here: https://www.cifar.ca/research/global-call/fungal-kingdom.

CIFAR is a Canadian-based, global charitable organization that assembles extraordinary research leaders to address science and humanity’s most significant challenges. CIFAR funds collaborative networks of scientists in the range of 15 to 25 investigators who come together over a sustained period of time (programs are funded in five-year increments) to solve important problems. The global call for applications (https://www.cifar.ca/research/global-call) announced 4 new programs and 4 returning programs. CIFAR received 120 proposed new programs, 12 finalists were chosen, and four were selected for funding, including the Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities program.   To read the CIFAR news release click here.

Marchuk receives 2019 Research Mentoring Award for basic science research. Douglas Marchuk, James B. Duke Professor, has been announced as the 2019 recipient of the School of Medicine Basic Research Mentoring Award. The Research Mentoring Awards were created in 2009 to honor outstanding research mentors in the Schools of Medicine and Nursing.  Winners of this award demonstrate excellence in numerous aspects of mentoring, including accomplishments of individual mentees, programs implemented by the mentor, or by exceptional creativity in mentoring.

Doug was nominated for this award by his current and former students, fellows, and faculty colleagues who highlighted the various ways in which Doug has mentored trainees and junior faculty alike. Doug was co-Director of the University Program in Genetics and Genomics from 2002-2009 and director from 2009-2014, as well as the founding Director of the Division of Human Genetics. He has been the course director of the Human Genetics course (MGM732) for many years and founded the highly impactful grant writing course (MGM702) that has benefited students across the basic sciences and engineering departments. In his own lab, Doug has mentored many undergraduates, graduate students, MSTP students, and postdoctoral fellows. His trainees have gone on to successful careers in academic research, academic administration, patient advocacy, and medicine. Doug is also a staunch supporter of his faculty colleagues, particularly junior faculty, advocating for their research programs and professional development and serving on tenure committees. Doug’s tireless dedication to education, mentoring, training, and science is inspiring.

This well-deserved award will be presented to Doug by Dean Mary Klotman at the annual Spring Faculty Meeting to be held at the Doris Duke Center, Duke Gardens on Wednesday, May 8th at 5pm.

Alspaugh receives 2019 Golden Apple Award. Andrew Alspaugh, MD, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, has received the 2019 Golden Apple Award. The Golden Apple Awards are the highest teaching awards presented by the Duke University School of Medicine student body to recognize outstanding dedication to medical student education.

Andy has been directing the medical school microbiology course for the past 6 years, and and describes it as a highlight of his experiences.  Andy’s primary appointment is in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, and his secondary appointment is in MGM.  Andy is quite active in graduate student education and his lab alumni are excelling as independent investigator faculty members (Liz Ballou, the University of Birmingham), and in exemplary post-doctoral experiences (Teresa O’Meara with Leah Cowen and Suzanne Noble, and Kyla Ost with June Round), in addition to the  students in his lab (Shannon Esher who graduated last year and is doing a postdoc at Tulane, Kaila Pianalto who defended recently, Hannah Brown who recently received a priority score of 10 on her F31 NIH fellowship, and Calla Telzrow).  Andy also serves as the co-director for the Tri-Institutional Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Program (Tri-I MMPTP) and was a course director for five years for the Molecular Mycology course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

To read more, click here.


Brown awarded Jo Rae Wright Fellowship. Congratulations to Hannah Brown, MGM Graduate student in Alspaugh’s Lab, on being offered the Jo Rae Wright Fellowship for Outstanding Women in Science for academic year 2019-2020.



Heitman awarded 2019 Edward Novitski Prize. Joseph Heitman, M.D., Ph.D., Chair and James B. Duke Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology have received the 2019 Edward Novitski Prize for his work on human fungal pathogens and for indentifying the molecular targets of widely-used immunosuppressive drugs. Heitman will be presented with this prize at the upcoming 30th Fungal Genetics Conference. Click here for the 2019 Edward Novitski Prize announcement.

Medina awarded a DeLill Nasser. Edgar Medina, Graduate Student in the Buchlar lab, received a DeLill Nasser award for Professional Development in Genetics for Spring 2019. Edgar is working to develop a member of an ancient lineage of Fungi as a new model to understand how the ultra-conserved gene networks that control cell division in Eukaryotes can change and rewire through evolutionary time.  Edgar will attend the Fungal Genetics Conference in Asilomar, CA this March. To read more, click here.

Lowe announced as Whitehead Scholar. Craig Lowe, PhD, Assistant Professor, was awarded a Whitehead Scholarship by the School of Medicine. Craig is the tenth MGM Faculty Member to receive this prestigious distinction. The Lowe Lab is working to understand the genetic basis of vertebrate adaptation and disease. We are especially interested in understanding the genetic differences that underlie unique aspects of human biology. Some of these genetic differences have given humans unique and wonderful abilities, but other parts of our genome leave us predisposed to certain diseases and disorders.

Matsunami featured on WRAL News.  Hiro Matsunami, PhD, Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, was featured on the WRAL morning news on Monday, January 7, 2019. Hiro discusses his recent paper published in Nature Communications about replacing drug-sniffing dogs with robotic noses and the benefits of using them.  To read more about this exciting research click here.

Matsunami, Thiele, and Franks receive DIBS Incubator Award.  Hiro Matsunami, PhD, Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Dennis Thiele, PhD, Professor in the Department of Medicine, and Kevin Franks, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology received a Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) Incubator Award for their application, “Smelling Sulfur in Wilson’s Disease: toward an early and non-invasive diagnosis for the copper metabolism disorder.”  They will receive $100,000 for their research project.  DIBS supports innovative interdisciplinary research.

headshot of Micah Luftigheadshot of Bill Steinbach Luftig, Steinbach, and Tomaras, named AAAS Fellows. Micah Luftig, PhD, Associate Professor, and secondary MGM faculty members, William Steinbach, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Georgia Tomaras, MD, Professor in Surgery were named Fellows of the American Associate for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The new fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold-and-blue rosette pin on Saturday, February 16 during the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.  SOM Blog

Matsunami featured in Duke Today and EurekAlert! Hiro Matsunami, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology use animal stem cells to create an ‘e-nose’ for detecting explosives, drugs, and other compounds.  To read the full article in EurekAlert, The Global Source for Science News, click here.  To read the Duke Today article, click here.  To read the full manuscript in Nature Communications, click here.

Bastidas research featured in Duke Today.  Robert Bastidas, PhD, Assistant Research Professor in the laboratory of Raphael Valdivia, PhD, was featured in a Duke Today article titled, “Chlamydia attacks with Frankenstein Protein.”  In partnership with Jonathan Pruneda, Assistant Professor at Oregon Health & Science University and several other researchers, Robert has shown that one Chlamydia protein, known as ChlaDUB1, is capable of manipulating human cells in two different ways, with one appearing to be essential for thriving inside the host.  To read more, click here. To read the full manuscript, click here.

Brown and Gibbs received perfect scores on F31.   Hannah Brown and Kyle Gibbs, two MGM graduate students received a perfect score of 10 on their most recent F31 submission. The title of Hannah’s project is, “Defining pH-Sensing in fungal virulence.”  The research funded by this grant aims to explore how microbial organisms sense and respond to a change in environment in order to infect and cause disease. Specifically, I will study the human fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans and its ability to adapt to the more alkaline and warmer environment of the human lung as a way to understand this response. By better understanding how these pathogens manipulate themselves in order to better infect and coexist with the host, we aim to define new strategies to treat and clear microbial infections.  The title of Kyle’s project is, “STAT3-dependent manipulation of host transcription and immune responses by Salmonella.”  The research funded by this grant aims to determine both (1) how a novel Salmonella effector, SarA, drives the activation of the host transcription factor STAT3, and (2) how activation of STAT3, with accompanying host transcriptional changes, alters the host cell physiology to accelerate theintracellular replication of Salmonella, and thereby increase the virulence of sarA-containing Salmonella strains. Determining how SarA assembles a host signaling complex to phosphorylate STAT3 could provide a model for both other uncharacterized bacterial effectors and poorly characterized signaling by cytokine receptor intracellular domains. Understanding how, and to what end, SarA activates STAT3 during infection could open research into host-directed treatments for both infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders that are regulated by STAT3 signaling.  Congratulations to both of them on this exciting news!

Matt ScaglioneDr. Matt Scaglione arrives at Duke on January 1, 2019.  Matt Scaglione is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin and will arrive at Duke January 1, 2019 in the Center for Neurodegeneration and Neurotherapeutics and the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. From Al La Spada, the center director: “Matt’s postdoctoral work was done with Hank Paulson at the University of Michigan and focused on how proteins are selected for degradation by the chaperone-ubiquitin-proteasome system, with an emphasis on how this regulates the accumulation of pathological protein aggregates. Since starting his own lab in 2013, Matt has begun using the amoeba Dictyostelium discoidium as a model system to study an inherent mechanism of resistance to polyglutamine-driven protein aggregation. He has discovered a chaperone protein that uses an amyloid decoy domain to interact with polyQ-expanded proteins and target them for degradation by the proteosome. More recently, he has identified a chaperone protein that forms a biomolecular condensate via phase-phase separation can prevent protein aggregation in Dictyostelium. These are fascinating stories that have potential clinical implications for neurodegenerative diseases. Matt is using a variety of genetic and biochemical approaches and is extending his studies to mice and human cells.”

Jen-Tsan "Ashley" ChiJen-Tsan “Ashley” Chi, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and lab recently published new findings on unmasking blood doping in athletes. Read more about the findings in the Duke Today news release.   Read the published research here.



Davey awarded an AHA Fellwoship. Lauren Davey, Phd, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Raphael Valdivia, was awarded an American Heart Association Research Award.  Lauren’s research focuses on Akkermansia muciniphila, an intestinal bacterium that eats mucus produced by its host. Colonization with Akkermansia is associated with health and its abundance is inversely correlated with cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes and obesity. Akkermansia is a promising candidate for a novel probiotic, however, it remains poorly characterized. To better understand this fascinating bacterium, I am developing genetic tools to study the molecular mechanisms of mucin degradation, intestinal colonization, and interactions with other bacteria that inhabit the mucus layer. Using a combination of high-throughput DNA sequencing and colonization models, I am working towards identifying genetic factors required for Akkermansia survival in vivo. By investigating how Akkermansia interacts with the host and other gut microbes, I hope to contribute to efforts to leverage microbial ecology as a treatment for cardiovascular disease and obesity.

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