About MGM

Welcome to the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (MGM), a department of Duke University School of Medicine. The Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology resulted from the merger in 2002 of two existing departments, Microbiology and Genetics, and has two major areas of focus: genetics/genomics and microbiology.

Research in the Department spans both model and pathogenic organisms and the full spectrum of genetics from unicellular to multicellular eukaryotic organisms, including mice and humans. Many investigators possess expertise in both microbiology and genetics, including those utilizing yeasts as experimental microbial systems, and those probing the interactions of infectious agents with cellular or heterologous host model systems. Much of the history of modern molecular biology can be traced directly to genetic approaches with microbial and infectious systems, including the discoveries of DNA and RNA as the genetic material, the elucidation of the genetic code, and the development of recombinant DNA approaches based on bacterial restriction-modification systems and related enzymes. Existing areas of strength in the Department include: 1) microbiology (virology, mycology, bacteriology); 2) RNA biology and genomic expression analysis; 3) yeast genetics; 4) genetics of model systems and humans; and 5) chromosome structure, function, replication, and repair.

The Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology serves as the administrative infrastructure for four research centers that bridge investigators with primary and secondary appointments in the Department with other investigators throughout the medical center, and foster robust interfaces between the clinical and basic sciences. The Center for Host Microbial Interactions comprises investigators focused on fungal and bacterial microbial pathogens; the Center for RNA Biology brings together investigators interested in the structure, function, and synthesis of RNA; the Center for Virology provides a forum for investigators throughout the medical center who are focused on both basic and applied aspects of virology, including vaccine development; and the Duke Microbiome Center brings together a large cadre of investigators focused on the microbiome, including studies of model systems (zebrafish, mice) and humans as well as studies of microbial communities in the environment.

The Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology is committed to a highly interactive atmosphere where students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty flourish. The Department sponsors a monthly Monday evening research meeting where students, fellows, and faculty present their latest research findings, an annual scientific retreat, and other social events throughout the year. The Department also administers a robust graduate training program, supported by institutional resources and an NIH training grant in viral oncology and actively participates in other interdepartmental graduate training programs on campus, including the University Program in Genetics and Genomics (UPGG), previously directed by MGM faculty members Joseph Heitman, MD, PhDDouglas Marchuk, PhD and Beth Sullivan, PhD and currently directed by Allison Ashley-Koch, PhD, an MGM secondary faculty member. A key feature of the Department’s graduate training program is the Duke Scholars in Molecular Medicine Program, including the Duke Scholars in Infectious Diseases (DSID) track. This program accepts up to eight students and fellows each year who participate in a series of educational venues to bring basic scientists into the clinical arena. Activities include rounding in the hospital, attending rounds and grand rounds, and participating in seminars and interacting with leading physician-scientists invited to visit Duke. The Department also administers a tri-institutional fellows’ training program, the Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training Program (Tri-I MMPTP), which is supported by a training grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This program supports both basic and clinical fellows’ training in mycology at Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is directed by MGM faculty member, Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, co-directors Andrew Alspaugh, MD, and Paul Magwene, PhD, and director emeritus Thomas Mitchell, PhD, who founded the program and directed it for the first highly successful decade, including writing the T32 training grant. The Department also administers the viral oncology training grant–one of the longest running training grants at Duke, with a 43-year history of supporting virology and viral oncology research. Initiated by Wolfgang Joklik, PhD, an internationally renowned virologist, who also founded the American Society for Virology, the viral oncology T32 training grant is currently directed by MGM faculty member Micah Luftig, PhD. The training grant funds several postdoctoral and graduate student positions and also supports monthly Virology Works in Progress and Virology Journal Club meetings, as well as two annual symposia relevant to viral oncology.

Faculty members in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology have been well-recognized for their achievements. Follow this link for detailed information about faculty honors and awards and this link for faculty highlighted publications.

For further information about the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, specific programs, or opportunities for postdoctoral and graduate and undergraduate training, please contact us.