Per Malkus, PhD

Valdivia – Lab Members

Headshot of Per Malkus, PhDResearch Scientist
272 Jones Bldg
Box 3580 DUMC
Durham, NC 27710
Phone: (919) 681-2450
Fax: (919) 681-9193


Research Interest: Chlamydia progresses through a developmental life cycle, with states specialized for invasion, replication, and dispersion. Within a single host cell there is a small community of bacteria at different stages of development. Are some cells devoted to replication, while others manipulate the host cell to evade immune detection and acquire nutrients? Do environmental cues determine bacterial cell fate progression, or do bacteria step through states predictably, as though driven by a timer? Are traditionally defined cell fates uniform, or are there important differences in the kinds of effectors that individual bacteria secrete into the host cell cytoplasm? Exploring these questions is challenging because Chlamydia are small cocci (0.5-1.5 um diameter) that move within the confinement of a large membrane-bound sphere (inclusion) and it’s difficult to keep track of individuals over time. Advances in Chlamydia genetics in the recent years will allow me to explore tools for single-cell analysis.

Background: I was an undergrad at M.I.T. and got excited about doing laboratory research as a result of ‘project lab’ that brought real research into the undergraduate curriculum. Under the guidance of Graham Walker, our class screened for Rhizobium mutants that fail to secrete an exopolysaccharide essential for establishing a symbiosis with plants. Unexpectedly, this led to the identification of a gene required for the last step in Vitamin B12 synthesis, which had eluded directed approaches for many years. The opportunity to ask new questions, the challenge of designing experiments to test them, and the excitement of probing unknowns had me hooked on science. Excited to pursue questions related to the spatial organization of eukaryotic cells, I went on to graduate school at UC Berkeley and worked with Mark Bennett on synaptic vesicle exocytosis and with Randy Schekman on protein sorting in the ER. After graduate school I spent two years embracing experiences outside the lab, largely in the cold, disorienting fog of San Francisco Bay. Relocating to Boston got me back to the laboratory bench in an exciting new department of systems biology at Harvard Medical School that brought together researchers from many different disciplines. I enjoyed this diverse environment and hope to continue collaborative, interdisciplinary work at Duke.

Personal Interests: Like many other members of the lab, I love the outdoors and enjoy the opportunity the Carolina climate provides for spending time outside. Dirt, plants, and bicycles occupy most of my outdoor hours. Favorite things about North Carolina: crape myrtles and crazy insects. Least favorite things: heat and humidity.

Publications List: Abstracts on PubMed