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Microbiology & Infectious Diseases

Welcome to the Microbiology & Infectious Diseases PhD graduate program. Our location in the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest biomedical center, provides an excellent research environment.

The biological sciences have undergone a revolution of unprecedented scale. This revolution, fueled in large part by studies in microbiology, is fast reshaping the way scientists approach the myriad of biomedical and environmental issues confronting our society today. At the same time, microbiology still maintains its classical advantages – a wide variety of well-developed experimental approaches are available in the study of microbes, and many experiments can be completed in a relatively short time period. This makes microbiology especially well-suited for graduate student training. Our program faculty explore questions relevant to the following areas of modern microbiology:

  

Fundamental Life Processes

Many genes and their activities are conserved among bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. Our faculty exploit the many practical advantages of microbes to perform detailed mechanistic studies of a wide array of fundamental biological phenomena. These include gene expression, cell division, membrane biogenesis, macromolecular transport, multicellular development, and cellular differentiation.

Microbial Pathogenesis

Understanding virulence mechanisms is a major arm of medical research. Our faculty apply modern molecular genetic and biochemical technologies to understand the basis for infectious disease. Emphasis is placed on identifying and characterizing regulatory networks controlling virulence gene expression, virulence factor structure and function, mechanisms for spread of antibiotic resistance, and the host-pathogen interactions.

macrophages

MID Social Media

MID Program Information and Activities

  • Program Newsletter and Highlights

    2023 Newsletter

    Read our latest newsletter here!


    Highlights

    2023 UTHealth Dr. Jonh J. Kopchick Student Research Fellowship
      Khondakar Sayef Ahammed: Mentor Ambro van Hoof, PhD

    2023 Dean's Excellence Scholarship
      Abbigale Perkins: Mentor Bill Margolin, PhD 

      Ryan Sloan: Mentor Jayhun Lee, PhD

    2023 Jess Hay Chancellor Fellowship

      Taylor Halsey: Mentor Robert Jenq, MD, PhD

    2023 George Stancel  Fellowship

      Hannah Wilson: Mentor Mike Lorenz, PhD

    2023 Oats Family Fellowship

      Sabona Simbassa: Mentor Jayhun Lee, PhD

    2023 Molly Bray Scholarship

      Taylor Halsey: Mentor Robert Jenq, MD, PhD

    2022 UTHealth Jess Hay Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship
      Jennifer Hurtig: Mentor Ambro van Hoof, PhD

    2022 CPRIT Fellow
      Taylor Halsey: Mentor Robert Jenq, MD, PhD

    2021 GSBS Kopchick Fellow
    Jennifer Hurtig: Mentor Ambro van Hoof, PhD

    2021 GSBS President Research Scholarship & Medical School Research Retreat Poster Winner
    Unekwu Yakubu: Mentor Kevin Morano, PhD


    MID/MMG 2023 Retreat

    May 9-10, 2024
    Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas

  • Activities

    MID Retreat
    A shared retreat with the Microbiology & Molecular Genetics department, a yearly retreat with MID program students, departmental post-docs, and faculty attend an out-of-town retreat. At the retreat, students present their research results and ideas. Also, a keynote address is delivered by an outside speaker. In addition to the scientific aspect, the retreat is a great chance for students and faculty to relax and have fun together.

    MID Journal Club
    We have a very active journal club in which our students, department post-docs, and faculty discuss particularly interesting and timely papers pertaining to microbiology and/or infectious diseases.

    MID Student Summer Seminar Series
    During the summer our journal club is replaced by our student seminar series. These seminars give students in the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases program the chance to practice their presentation skills, and to get constructive feedback on their research.

    MID Student Colloquia (GRASS)
    Once a month one of our graduate students presents his/her research objectives and results to the other graduate students. This voluntary get-together is organized by the students themselves, and provides a great opportunity to practice presenting and get constructive feedback in an informal setting.

    Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Departmental Seminars
    In the departmental seminar series, outstanding scientists from around the world present their research Thursdays at 10:30 am. Click here for the latest event listings.

    Topic-specific meetings within the Texas Medical Center
    Many MID students participate in regular meetings of scientists from all of the TMC institutions who share common research interests. Many such groups meet, including the TMC chapter of the American Society for Microbiology, the Molecular Basis of Infectious Diseases group (MBID), the Fungi/Fungal group, the Bacterial Interest Group (BIG), a C. elegans group, and many others. This provides MID students with a unique opportunity to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience found in the many research institutions in the TMC.

  • Resources

    WELLNESS

    GSBS Student Support and Resources here

    UTHealth Student Counseling Services here   

    --Visit website for hours and contact information. 713-500-5171 from 8am to 5pm. 24/7 Crisis line: 713-500-4688

    UTHealth Employee Assistance here

    TAO at UT- app to assist UT students here

    MISCONDUCT AND HARRASSMENT

    If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination and harassment as described herein, please call 713-500-CALL.

    The GSBS MID program supports its students in many ways and believes that students have the right to an education in an environment that is fair, honest and free of discrimination and harassment so that students can thrive in their educational and scientific endeavors. We take seriously any acts or reports of bias, hate, abuse, discrimination, harassment of any nature. One way of demonstrating our commitment is the GSBS Incident Reporting System. This tool provides students with a way to report anonymously any form of mistreatment they experience as a part of the GSBS including its parent institutions.  You can access information to anonymously report here.

  • Leadership and Committees
    Program Director- William Margolin

    Program Co-Director- Anna Konovalova

    Program Steering Committee

    William Margolin (chair)

    Anna Konovalova

    Anthony Flores

    Heidi Kaplan

    Ziyin Li

    Jennifer Walker

    Larissa Tavizon (PhD Student)

    MID Student Advisory Council

    Abbigale Perkins

    Khondakar Sayef Ahammed

    Larissa Tavizon

    Program Admissions Committee

    Anna Konovalova (chair)

    Heidi Kaplan

    Jayhun Lee

    J Christian Perez

  • Awards and Opportunities

    GSBS Travel Awards for in-person and virtual conferences and off-site courses.

    MID Travel Awards for In-person and virtual conferences and off-site courses.  

    MID provides up to $300 pre-candidacy and up to $500 post-candidacy travel awards to program students presenting findings of their research at conferences, either orally or as a poster, or to engage in an intensive short course.  All travel award applications are reviewed as they are received. To apply for a travel award, please contact the program coordinator  – one per student per 12-month (on average) period, as long as funds are available. 

    GSEC Travel Awards and grant submission bonus

    MID Student Service Award

    The MID Student Service Award is to formally recognize an MID graduate student who has provided noteworthy service (in terms of quantity and/or impact) to the individual’s department/program, the University/higher education, the community, service to professional organizations, and/or service at the state, national, or international level.  Winners are selected based on the scope of service between August 1 to July 31. The award is $500.00.  Please contact the program coordinator for application.  

  • Program Bylaws

    I.   Introduction and Mission 

    The goal of the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (MID) Program is to promote scientific excellence by providing intense and modern student training in microbial model systems and the molecular basis of microbial pathogenesis. Microbes are especially well suited for graduate training because their inherent rapid growth and availability of a wide variety of approaches allow an individual student to make a significant contribution to scientific understanding. Most of the existing knowledge of molecular and cellular biology is based on analysis of microbial model organisms. Microbes also are responsible for a wide variety of infectious diseases that affect every single human during their lifetime and cause significant morbidity and mortality. This focus on microbial systems is unique within the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). The Program functions in cooperation with the GSBS. Program faculty are members of the GSBS and are expected to be full participants in GSBS activities.

    II.   Program Organization

    All committee assignments are held from September 1st-August 31st. The administrative organization of the MID Program is as follows:

    A.  Director

    The director is responsible for organizing all program activities or delegating the organization of specific activities to other faculty, students and/or staff.  The Director will be elected by the Program faculty. The Steering Committee will submit the names of nominees for Director to the GSBS Deans’ Office. GSBS will then solicit nominations, including self-nominations, from the Program faculty at-large to serve as Director. Once the slate of candidates has been approved by the GSBS Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results to the program members. The Director-Elect of the Program will serve as Co-Director for two years and subsequently, upon election, as Director for a single two-year term starting July 1st of the first year of their term.

    The Director's responsibilities include:

    • Coordinate the activities of the other Program Committees.
    • Counsel and advise first year GSBS students.
    • Evaluate and monitor the overall progress of each student in the Program.
    • Meet with all the students annually to help maintain student morale and retention.
    • Assist in the coordination of laboratory rotations.
    • Appoint course directors for each of the required program specific courses.
    • Organize Program faculty meetings at least semi-annually and distribute the agenda and minutes in a timely manner.
    • Receive applications for faculty membership in the Program and distribute the applications to the Steering Committee.
    • Represent the interests of the Program faculty and students in both the Medical School’s Graduate Student Education Committee (GSEC) and the GSBS's Program Directors Committee (PDC) and any other appropriate venue.
    • Advise the MID student body of any changes in the MID Program requirements and whether those changes apply to current Program students and/or future Program students.
    • Grant an exception to Program course requirements or committee composition for an individual student in response to a written request from the student, and in consultation with the Steering Committee.
    • Approve applications for student membership in the Program.
    • Review and approve student advisory and examination committees and forward these recommendations to the GSBS Academic Standards Committee for review and approval.
    • Coordinate with GSBS to update the MID program website in a timely manner.

    B.  Co-Director and Director-Elect

    The Co-Director/Director-Elect will carry out the Director's responsibilities in the Director's absence. As stated above, the Co-Director/Director-Elect will serve in this position for two years prior to becoming Director upon election. This arrangement ensures continuity between directors' terms. In the event of a vacancy in the Director position, the Co-Director/Director-Elect will become the Director and an election will be held to fill the Co-Director/Director-Elect position.

    C.  Program Steering Committee

    The Director and Co-Director will be advised by a Program Steering Committee comprised of the Director, Co-Director, four at-large elected MID faculty members and one MID student. At least three of the four at large faculty members will be regular Program members. The chair of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (MMG) department will serve as an ex officio non-voting member of the Program Steering Committee

    The four at-large MID faculty members on the Steering Committee will be elected by the Program faculty and each will serve a single four-year term. The terms will be staggered by one year such that each year one member is replaced. GSBS will solicit nominations, including self-nominations, from the Program faculty at-large to serve on the Steering Committee. Once the slate of candidates has been approved by the Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results to the program members.

    The Student member will be elected by Program students to serve a one-year term. GSBS will solicit volunteers from Program students to serve on the Steering Committee. To be eligible to serve, students must be in good academic standing and have completed the first year of training at GSBS. Once the slate of candidates has been approved by the Program Director and the Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results to the Program members. The student representative may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms.

    The Steering Committee will:

    • Meet at least semi-annually.
    • Empanel subcommittees to advise on Program matters as needed.
    • Formulate policies related to the academic and administrative aspects of the Program and present them to the Program faculty for approval or modification.
    • Review Program faculty using the GSBS Membership Committee criteria and these bylaws as a guideline.
    • Approve changes to the Program.
    • Develop student recruitment and admissions policies.
    • Appoint a program faculty member each year to coordinate the Annual Program Retreat.
    • Advise the Director on all Program functions including appointment of course directors and allocation of Program funds.
    • Distribute a summary of meeting activities in a timely manner.
    • Periodically evaluate the curriculum and develop and recommend curriculum changes.

    D.  Program Admissions Committee

    The Admissions Committee is composed of at least four Program faculty appointed annually by the Steering Committee. This committee is responsible to the Director and the Program faculty. The Admissions Committee works closely with the GSBS Admissions Committee to aid in evaluating prospective GSBS students with an interest in the MID Program. Ideally, one member of this Program committee serves on the GSBS Admissions Committee.

    The Admissions Committee will:

    • Provide comments to the GSBS Admissions Committee concerning the suitability of GSBS applicants with an interest in the MID Program.
    • Communicate with interested prospective students.
    • Organize MID Program efforts to recruit students, including during GSBS student interview weekends.
    • Develop and distribute recruitment materials.
    • Organize events to inform first year GSBS students of opportunities in the MID program. This includes any program specific events in the GSBS orientation, as well as a social event for Program faculty and students during GSBS orientation or near the beginning of the academic year.

    E.  Student Advisory Council

    The Student Advisory Committee (SAC) is composed of the student representative on the Program Steering Committee and two additional MID Program Students. The two at large SAC members will be elected by Program students to serve a one-year term. The standing SAC members will nominate candidates to serve on the SAC and the Program will solicit additional nominations from Program students. To be eligible to serve, students must be in good academic standing and have completed the first year of training at GSBS. Once the slate of candidates has been approved by the Program Director, the Program will conduct the election and report the results to the Program faculty and students. The student representatives may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms.

    The SAC will:

    • Have one member serve as the Student Representative on the MID Program Steering Committee.
    • Coordinate organization of the yearly Graduate Student Seminar (GraSS) program with voluntary help from additional MID Program students as needed.
    • Invite at least one national seminar speaker for the MMG department Seminar Series, and an optional local seminar speaker each year, pending available funding from the MMG department.
    • Coordinate and write the annual MID Program Newsletter with voluntary help from additional Program Students as needed.
    • Assist with MID Program recruitment by participating in GSBS interview weekend activities.
    • Provide feedback to the Program Director concerning Program Student opinions on prospective MID students interviewing with GSBS.
    • Assist with MID Program recruitment for prospective students by including first- year students rotating with program faculty as Program Members for the duration of their rotation.
    • Nominate student representatives or officers to other GSBS, Medical School or UTHealth committees and organizations, including the Graduate Student Association (GSA), the Student InterCouncil (SIC), and the GSEC when called for.

    III.   Program Faculty

    The goal of the MID Program is to provide rigorous training in the study of bacterial and eukaryotic microorganisms and to foster scientific interactions among students and faculty. In accordance with these goals, MID strives for enthusiastic Program faculty who are dedicated to graduate student education and have vigorous and well-funded research programs.

    Applications for membership in the MID Program are submitted to the Program Director. Applications should include the applicant’s CV and a letter stating the applicant’s reasons for requesting to join the Program. This letter should indicate what the applicant expects to gain from membership in the Program and what the applicant can contribute to the Program. Applications are reviewed by the MID Steering Committee with input from the MID Program faculty.

    The Steering Committee reviews the contributions of Program faculty in conjunction with review by the GSBS Membership Committee. Faculty participation reports provided by GSBS should be augmented by reports/statements of Program-specific activities.  The Program sends GSBS a list of faculty members who are inactive. Faculty determined to be inactive in MID program activities are subject to losing their affiliation with MID upon recommendation of the MID Program Steering Committee.  The Program will notify GSBS Faculty Affairs of any new or terminated faculty members. Faculty whose program membership is not renewed or whose application for program membership is denied may appeal the decision to the GSBS Membership Committee.

     Requirements of MID Program faculty:

    • Membership in the GSBS, including Regular Members, Associate Members and Distinguished Senior Lecturers as determined by the GSBS Membership Committee
    • Scientific independence
    • Active funded research in an area relevant to the MID Program
    • A willingness to participate in Program activities as outlined

     Program faculty are expected to participate in one or more of the following activities: 

    • Host tutorial students with MID
    • Serve as a thesis advisor for MID
    • Serve on MID program committees and sub-committees.
    • Represent MID in GSBS
    • Serve on student committees
    • Direct and/or teach Program courses
    • Attend thesis defenses of program students, the annual retreat, journal club and student summer
    • Attend MID faculty meetings and participate in the formulation of program by-laws
    • Participate in MID student recruitment and new student orientation
    • Help organize and/or attend social events involving MID

    IV.   Program Students – Admission to the Program  

    GSBS PhD students who elect to perform thesis research in the laboratory of an MID Program faculty member can be considered for membership in the Program (termed “Affiliated Students”). If a student joins the lab of a GSBS faculty but non-MID Program faculty member and wishes to join the MID Program, an arrangement can be made at the Director’s discretion in consultation with the Steering Committee. All Program students are required to fulfill all Program and GSBS requirements. Exceptions regarding completion of required Program courses may be made by the Director on a case-by-case basis. PhD and MS Students in Program faculty laboratories who are not formally in the Program may, by common agreement of the Director, the student, and the student’s faculty advisor, participate in Program activities (termed “Participating Students”).

    V.   Website

    The MID Program website contains all the essential information concerning the MID Program curriculum, course requirements, and other requirements. The Program Director consults with the Steering Committee concerning any changes to the website and is responsible for updating the website annually. The Director alerts students to any substantive changes.

    VI.   Amendments to Bylaws

    An amendment to the Bylaws of the MID Program may be accomplished by a majority vote of the Program faculty after the following procedure has been followed. The proposed amendment will be submitted to the Program Director who will send it to the GSBS Deans Office for review to ensure that it meets GSBS guidelines. The Program Director will then send the amendment electronically to the Program Faculty for consideration at least two weeks before a vote is to be taken. If the amendment is to be discussed at a faculty meeting, a final vote may be taken at the meeting. If the amendment is to be approved electronically, GSBS will send the final version of the amendment to the Program Faculty to approve by electronic ballot.

Events

halsey-service-award

Announcements

Congratulations to Taylor Halsey!  She was selected as the 2023 winner of the annual MID Outstanding Student Service Award. The award recognizes noteworthy service to the individual’s department/program, the University/higher education, the local community, service to professional organizations, and/or service at the state, national, or international level. 

cover montage of bacteria

Contact Us

Program Director
William Margolin, PhD
Professor
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
McGovern Medical School
University of Texas Health Science Center
6431 Fannin Street, Room MSB 1.166
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 500-5452
[email protected]

Program Co-Director
Anna Konovalova, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
McGovern Medical School
University of Texas Health Science Center
6431 Fannin Street, Room MSB 1.167
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 500-5469
[email protected]

Program Coordinator

Carolyn Agurcia-Parker, DrPH
Office: MSB 1.174
(713) 500-8805 or (713) 500-9876
[email protected]