Aly BarnesOBGE and School of Medicine (SoM) are providing resources to cultivate excellent mentoring practices at all stages. Graduate students, Chin Yee Tan and Alyson Barnes are both peer mentors with OBGE’s inaugural peer mentor network. Through fortnightly gateway groups with 10-11 first-year students in SoM PhD programs, they explore pertinent skills and issues that most early grad students face. These include identifying and maintaining healthy and productive mentor-mentee relationships, navigating difficult discussions, and time and project management skills. It is an extremely rewarding venture; one contributes to nurturing the next generation of scientists, and simultaneously learns how to better mentor and be mentored. They both highly recommend this for senior graduate students in MGM. If you are interested in this program: applications are solicited every April, so stay tuned.


Dressman has been named director of Duke’s Sequencing and Genomic Technologies (SGT) Core Facility. Holly Dressman, PhD, has been named director of Duke’s Sequencing and Genomic Technologies (SGT) Core Facility, effective immediately. Nicolas Devos, PhD, has stepped down from his role as SGT director after leading the core since 2016. Dr. Dressman is a Research Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and has been on the School of Medicine faculty since 2001. She also serves as director of the Microbiome Shared Resource and will continue to lead that facility. Her expertise and institutional knowledge will facilitate a seamless leadership transition and will ensure that the SGT Core Facility continues to provide start-to-finish project support for Duke researchers, including consultation and planning services for all research projects involving genomics and microbial systems. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Dressman on her new appointment.

Heaton lab awarded RTI Forethought Grant. RTI International recently announced that a group of nine researchers representing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and RTI were selected as the winners of the institute’s Forethought Research Collaboration Challenge.  Nicholas Heaton, PhD lab members in MGM is the Duke University affiliated members of the team. The research group will receive $5 million in seed funding from RTI to create a broad spectrum of antiviral drugs effective against of viruses that cause epidemics and pandemics. These new drugs will be designed to treat infected individuals between the time a virus emerges until vaccines are developed, with the idea being to prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed and help maintain economic stability.

Smith awarded an NIH Director’s Award from NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.  Clare Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, received a highly prestigious NIH High-Risk, High Reward grant New Innovator Award.  Clare’s research project focuses on genetic diversity.  Genetic diversity is a key factor underlying heterogenous disease states of tuberculosis. However, current mouse models fail to incorporate both genetic and phenotypic diversity. This proposal leverages diverse but reproducible Collaborative Cross mouse strains, bacterial reporters of infection and novel host-pathogen genetic mapping strategies to mechanistically define loci underlying disease tolerance. Overall, these novel and synergistic strategies will define new models of disease tolerance and set the roadmap for systematically interrogating host-pathogen genetic interactions underlying tuberculosis.

Duke received two New Innovator Awards this cycle and one Pioneer Award.  The NIH Innovator Award, High-Risk, High Reward Research program supports exceptionally creative scientists pursuing highly innovated research with the potential for broad impact in biomedical, behavioral, or social sciences within the NIH mission.

Congratulations Clare!

To read the SOM press release click here.
To read the NIH press release click here.

Brewer awarded an NIH F31 National Research Service Award. Jared Brewer, a PhD student in the Tobin lab, was recently awarded an F31 Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from NIH/NHLBI to support his research on macrophage signaling pathways that mediate angiogenesis during mycobacterial infections.


How Much Fiber Should You Eat? Letourneau highlighted in Duke School of Medicine’s Magnify magazine. Jeff Letourneau, a PhD student in Lawrence David’s laboratory, is exploring how day-to-day dietary variation in terms of grams of fiber, types of fiber, and size of food particles, influences the community composition and metabolic functions of an individual’s microbiome.

To read the full article click here.

Ramirez receives a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Parent F31-Diversity). Zeni Ramirez, MGM PhD candidate working in the Surana Lab has received an F31-Diversity award to NIAID in her first submission. The title of Zeni’s proposal was “Characterizing and Exploiting Ruminococcus gnavus mediated induction of antimicrobial peptides”. This award will support her research in investigating the host and bacterial molecular mechanisms that underlie the effects of a commensal bacterial isolate’s unique ability to mediate expression of antimicrobial peptides and investigate it’s use in treatment and protection from infections due to antimicrobial-resistant pathogens.

Hughes awarded an NIAID Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31). Erika Hughes is a PhD candidate in Genetics and Genomics working in the Tobin lab. She has been awarded an NIAID Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31). This award will support Erika’s research on mycobacterial pathogenesis during eicosanoid-mediated immunity.


MGM alumna Yen-Ping Hsueh (PhD ‘08) received Tien Te Lee Young Scientist Biomedical Award in Taiwan for her research on the molecular interactions between carnivorous fungi and the nematode C. elegans. Yen-Ping did her PhD work with Dr. Joseph Heitman studying sex in Cryptococcus at Duke and moved to Caltech for her postdoctoral work with Dr. Paul  Sternberg to investigate the molecular interactions between C. elegans and nematode-trapping fungi.  She established her laboratory at Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan in 2015 where she is currently an associate professor and an EMBO Young Investigator.

Heitman received an Mycological Society of America’s distinguished mycologist award.  Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD received the distinguished mycologist award this week from the Mycological Society of America. He joins other distinguished honorees as John Taylor, Rytas Vilgalys, Meredith Blackwell, Jim Anderson, Linda Kohn, and others.  See previous honorees here.  Dr. Hetiman thanked his laboratory and collaborates in the following statement.  “This is truly a reflection of all of your amazing efforts advancing the science, and a testament to all of your contributions to mycology.  From my perspective, it is humbling to be considered a mycologist, let alone a distinguished one.  That reflects the impact of Tim James and Rytas Vilgalys many years ago in teaching a myopic yeast geneticist about the wonder and mystery of the fungal kingdom.”

More information will be in the next issue of the MSA publication Inoculum.

Stacy Horner Headshot

David and Horner recipients of Thomas Langford Lectureship award. Congratulations to Lawrence David and Stacy Horner on being selected as recipients of Duke University’s Thomas Langford Lectureship Award for academic year 2021-22. This program was established in 2000 in tribute to the memory of Thomas Langford, former Divinity School faculty member, Dean, and Provost, who embodied the highest university values of scholarship, teaching, collegiality, and promotion of faculty excellence and community. This annual Langford Lectureship series is designed to offer Duke’s faculty an opportunity to hear about the ongoing scholarly activities of their recently promoted or hired colleagues.

“Congratulations on this tremendous honor, which is a direct reflection of your stellar research program and its impact” – Joseph Heitman

PERFECT 10! Asiya Gusa scored a perfect 10 on her recent MOSAIC K99/R00 application.  Congratulations to Asyia Gusa, Tri-I Molecular Mycology and Pathogeneis Training Fellow and Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Sue Jinks-Robertson‘s laboratory. The MOSAIC K99/R00 program is designed to facilitate a timely transition of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds from their mentored, postdoctoral research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.  Asiya applied for the program with Dr. Sue Jinks-Robertson as her primary mentor and Dr. Joe Heitman as her co-mentor.

Asiya has exciting research ahead!  A description of her project is below.  The adaptive mechanisms that enable pathogenic fungi to survive the environment-to-host transition and cause persistent human disease are not well understood. In the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus deneoformans, we have discovered transposon mobilization as a significant cause of mutation during murine infection and in response to heat stress in culture, with the potential to enhance pathogenic traits or enable antifungal drug resistance. In this study, we seek to define the mechanism of stress-induced transposon mutagenesis in C. deneoformans and to determine whether this adaptive genetic strategy contributes to enhanced pathogenesis or drug resistance in disease-causing cryptococcal species during host infection.

For past news articles please click here.