Thomas G. Mitchell, PhD

Faculty and Research

Thomas G. Mitchell, PhD
Associate Professor, Emeritus

234 Jones Building
Box 3803 DUMC
Durham, N.C. 27710
Phone: (919) 684-5792
Fax: (919) 681-8911
Email: tom.mitchell@duke.eduresearch • biography • publications

In a Duke career spanning nearly four decades, Tom Mitchell has been integral to the success of Duke Medicine’s microbiology enterprise. He has trained a cadre of investigators who are now running their own laboratories and advanced both the understanding of how pathogens interact with host immune cells and the delineation of population structures of major pathogens.

Dr. Mitchell majored in biology at the University of North Texas-Denton and earned a PhD at Tulane University. After working in pediatric research at the University of Minnesota, he joined the Duke faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology. He supervised the serology and clinical mycology and mycobacteriology sections of the Duke Hospital Clinical Microbiology Laboratory for many years.

Dr. Mitchell’s NIH-supported research included the first investigation showing the genetic and phenotypic diversity of pathogenic yeasts such as Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans. These studies corroborated observations that strains of these pathogens vary in virulence, a finding that has had implications for molecular epidemiology, the evolution and emergence of virulent strains, and the selection of appropriate strains for research on pathogenicity, diagnosis, and treatment. His research program led to the discovery of the original environmental niche for Cryptococcus neoformans in the mopane trees in sub-Saharan Africa, and he recently returned from his second major collecting expedition in Botswana.

Dr. Mitchell contributed to medical education for 32 years, teaching and directing courses in microbiology, medical mycology, and lab work. For 15 years, he directed the Study Program in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases for medical students, and from 1975 to 1992, he organized and taught the internationally-recognized Duke Summer Mycology Course. Since its inception in 2003, Dr. Mitchell has directed the Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training Program (MMPTP), the only NIH-funded training grant specifically focused on fungal research. The MMPTP faculty includes investigators at Duke, NC State, and UNC-Chapel Hill and supports postdoctoral fellows engaged in research on fungi a model organisms or pathogens of plants or animals.

Dr. Mitchell is a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the 2004 Cooper Award for Achievements in Clinical Mycology and Mycological Education from the Medical Mycological Society of the Americas.

He and his wife, Jill Over, have two daughters and five grandchildren. He officially retired from Duke in August 2011, but continues to participate in research and other departmental and university activities.