Microbiology and Immunology Faculty Research Descriptions

David P. AuCoin Ph.D., Professor; Chair.  Research in the AuCoin laboratory focuses on identifying shed/secreted microbial antigens that can be targeted with monoclonal antibodies for diagnosing and treating infections. Pathogens that are currently being studied in the laboratory include Ebola virus, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Yersinia pestis, hepatitis B virus, and many more.

Paul J. Brett, Ph.D., Professor.  Research in the Brett laboratory focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms used by Burkholderia pseudomallei to cause disease in humans and animals. The main goal of Dr. Brett's research is to identify correlates of antigen-induced immunity against B. pseudomallei and use this information to develop safe, affordable and effective vaccines to prevent infections caused by this important bacterial pathogen.

Mary N. Burtnick, Ph.D., Professor.  Research in the Burtnick laboratory focuses on characterizing virulence factors and protective antigens expressed by Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis. The main objective of these studies is to identify antigens that can be used to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics and immune assays to combat melioidosis. Dr. Burtnick currently directs and teaches in the Microbiology and Immunology, B.S. program.

Deanna Colton, Ph.D. Teaching Assistant Professor. Dr. Colton has five years of experience in teaching with a focus on microbiology courses but has also taught biology and anatomy and physiology. She is the instructor for Introduction to Microbiology (MICR 276) and will help with other courses such as Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MICR 300).

Liming Huang Ph.D., Associate Professor.  Our research focuses on the design and synthesis of new fluorescent molecules that can be used in different sensing systems. In addition, we are interested inmolecular imprinting artificial antibodies, nanomaterial for bioimaging and biosensing, and organic solid materials.

Dorothy Hudig Ph.D., Professor.  Research in the Hudig laboratory focuses on cytotoxic mechanisms of natural killer (NK) lymphocytes. The NK cells eliminate cells infected with viruses or microbial pathogens and also destroy cancer cells. Current studies address serial killing and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) by NK lymphocytes and genetic engineering to increase NK cell killing of tumor cells and virally infected cells.

Kenneth W. Hunter Sc.D., Professor . The Hunter Laboratory investigates immunomodulating molecules derived from fungi and viruses. These microbially-derived molecules are being tested in immunodeficiency diseases, infectious diseases, and cancer.

Thomas R. Kozel Ph.D., Professor.  The Kozel laboratory studies the pathogenesis of fungal infections and develops diagnostics for bacterial and fungal diseases. Current efforts are developing rapid tests for diagnosis of i) fungal nail and hair infections that affect 30 million individuals in the U.S. each year and ii) invasive fungal infections that occur in immunosuppressed patients such as individuals who undergo cancer chemotherapy or receive hematopoietic stem cell or solid organ transplants.

Vincent C. Lombardi, Ph.D., Associate Professor . The objective of Dr. Lombardi's research career has been to investigate and understand the pathophysiology associated with inflammatory and infectious diseases and to biomarkers to identify these diseases. Presently, his work is focused on understand the contribution of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) of the gut to systemic immunity and neurological function; the "so called" gut-brain axis. pDCs are professional antigen-presenting cells as well as professional interferon producing cells. They respond to pathogen-derived nucleic acid through the engagement of toll-like receptors 7 and 9. pDCs are also known to be activated in response to "self" nucleic acids and are implicated in autoimmunity. His working hypothesis is pDCs can be activated as well as inhibited by nucleic acid and their aberrant activation or inhibition can lead to chronic immune dysfunction as well as autoimmunity.

Cyprian Rossetto Ph.D., Associate Professor . Research in the Rossetto laboratory focuses on i) the role of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) in altering host and viral chromatin to modulate gene expression and ii) cis and trans acting factors required for Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and KSHV viral DNA replication during lytic and latent infections.

Paul Sumby Ph.D., Associate Professor . The group A Streptococcus (GAS; also known as Streptococcus pyogenes) is remarkable in its ability to cause a wide variety of human diseases, including pharyngitis (aka strep throat), pyoderma, rheumatic heart disease, puerperal sepsis, toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing fasciitis (aka the flesh-eating infection). Research in the Sumby laboratory focuses on using genetic, genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic approaches to identify molecular explanations for how GAS can cause such disease diversity.

Subhash C. Verma Ph.D., Professor . Research in the Verma laboratory focuses on determining the mechanism of tumorigenesis caused by the human herpesviruses and identifying drug targets for blocking viral replication. An additional infectious agent, Zika virus, is also studied for its transmission and pathogenesis using small animal models.