• 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 …

  • MGM 2018 Graduation Party
    May 4, 2018

    Congratulations to the 2018 MGM Graduates! Best wishes to all of you! (click link for pictures)  


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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