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Chair’s Letter

Welcome to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School. We are a group of faculty, students, postdoctoral scholars, and staff dedicated to cutting edge research, outstanding teaching, and service to the University and the scientific community.

Several years ago, the 2002-2003 academic year marked the 100th anniversary of our Department. In 1902, Frederick Novy founded the Department of Bacteriology at Michigan, the first such department in the nation. Through the years, the Department has maintained its pioneering legacy of discovery, and in its second century it has evolved to the point where today we are recognized by our peers as one of the leading departments in the country.

Research in the Department focuses on microbial pathogenesis. We strive to understand the mechanisms by which viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites elicit pathogenesis in the infected host. Conversely, we also investigate the pathways by which the host immune response endeavors to overcome these infections. Investigation of preventative measures including the development of vaccines represents a part of our effort.

These studies are carried out in the laboratories of over 30 faculty who receive substantial research grant support from the NIH and other governmental and private agencies. We have state-of-the-art facilities that include all of the equipment and resources necessary to perform this important research.

A major part of our mission is the training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who will become the next generation of microbiologists and immunologists. Our graduates have gone on to successful positions in academia, government, and industry. In addition, our faculty members have been recognized for their accomplishments by a variety of awards, invitations to speak at national and international conferences, and service on editorial boards and in scientific societies.

As recently as thirty years ago, some prominent scientists declared the impending end of infectious diseases as a serious threat to human health. The subsequent emergence and re-emergence of a variety of infectious diseases, including AIDS, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, TB, gastrointestinal ulcers, virus-induced cancers, and West Nile virus encephalitis, to name a few, provide dramatic proof that this prediction was premature. Moreover, there is now a pressing need for increased understanding of microbial pathogens that might be used for biowarfare purposes such as anthrax. There has never been a greater need for scientists to conduct research in these critical areas.

While our knowledge of the molecular biology of the pathogens themselves has increased significantly, the details of the intricate interactions between each pathogen and its host, at the molecular, cellular, organ, and organism levels are still in need of serious investigation. Infectious diseases remain among the most common and fatal of diseases. According to the World Health Organization at the turn of the new millennium, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis combined account for 12.1% of deaths worldwide, second only to ischemic heart disease (12.4% of deaths). These estimates, of course, do not even include the significant morbidity suffered by victims of such illnesses. In the U.S., it is estimated that infectious diseases account for half of all work and school absenteeism, and there are clearly differing susceptibilities to diseases among the population. Research addressing these interactions between host and pathogen are becoming increasingly vital to the ability of modern medical practice to control infectious disease. Such research is currently being performed in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

I invite you to browse our website for information on faculty research, our graduate program, courses, faculty and student seminars, and a variety of other topics. If you would like more information or would like to arrange a visit, please contact us at (734) 763-3531.

Harry L.T. Mobley, Ph.D

The Frederick G. Novy Professor and Chair