Medical Microbiology and Immunology

CURRENT NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Student writes about research in Toledo Blade

Upasana Shrestha, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Track of our Biomedical Science Program, is conducting her research in the laboratory of Drs. David Kennedy and Steven Haller.

"My research focuses specifically on understanding the mechanisms of aerosol dispersion of cyanotoxins and microplastics and impacts on the health of people who come into contact with these contaminants. We aim to determine the toxicity of these contaminants and identify potential treatments to relieve their harmful effects. I am currently using experimental models and systems designed specifically for these studies."

Upasana Shrestha, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Track of our Biomedical Science Program, wrote a column in the Toledo Blade discussing her research on microcystins and microplastics.

She is conducting her research in the laboratory of Drs. David Kennedy and Steven Haller

Read the article.


Faculty member honored with Golden Apple Award

Viviana Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Congratulations to Viviana Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D., recipient of the 2024 Robert T. Tidrick Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence in Basic Sciences.

 

The Robert T. Tidrick Golden Apple Awards for teaching excellence are named in honor of Dr. Tidrick, a surgeon and outstanding educator on the faculty of the former Medical College of Ohio from 1969 until his death in June 1983, at the age of 73. Faculty, both basic scientists and clinicians, are selected for the honor each year by members of the graduating class of medical students. 


Awardee announced for MMI Earl H. Freimer Award for Outstanding M.D./Ph.D. Student

Dr. Z. Kevin Pan, professor and chair, with Justin Franco, M.D./Ph.D. candidate and Freimer awardee.

The Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) has announced the 2024 recipient of the Earl H. Freimer, M.D., Ph.D., Award for Outstanding M.D./Ph.D. Student in Medical Microbiology and Immunology: Justin Franco.

The Earl H. Freimer award is issued from an endowed fund established in the name of Earl H. Freimer, founding chair of the MMI Department, and founding Division Director of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine. The award recognizes Dr. Freimer's commitment to the intersection of medicine with research in immunology and infectious agents. 

This year’s awardee, Justin Franco, is in the lab of Z. Kevin Pan, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the department. Justin is (to date) first or co-first author on three publications (with a fourth having just been accepted). His focus is on understanding the signaling properties of retinoic acid and its potential as an anti-coronavirus therapeutic. 

The award comes with a monetary prize, from a fund generously endowed by Dr. Freimer’s family after his death. 

Congratulations to Justin and his dissertation advisor!

Learn more about the award.


Faculty members bring scientific research experience to high school students

Dr. Jyl Matson and Dr. Bob Blumenthal are pictured in a high school classroom with teacher Marty Perlaky in the center.

Since the start of the 2023-24 school year, Drs. Jyl Matson and Bob Blumenthal from the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology have been spending time in the AP Biology class of Mr. Marty Perlaky, at nearby Springfield High School. Drs. Matson and Blumenthal are funded by the National Science Foundation, and the grant includes an outreach component.

The students are helping to generate a "library" of a coral-infecting bacterium, in which different genes have been disrupted. The goal is to find out which genes are responsible for that bacterium’s ability to cause coral disease, so eventually drugs might be developed that protect the coral in “nurseries” (labs in which small pieces of corals are grown, and then used to help regenerate damaged reefs). This is especially important as climate change is stressing corals, and making them more susceptible to bacterial diseases.

Mr. Perlaky spent a summer in Dr. Blumenthal’s laboratory in 2008, and they have stayed in contact since then. Last year, Mr. Perlaky was named the outstanding biology teacher for the State of Ohio. The project also involves UToledo student Sam Graham, who is in the Licensure and Masters Program (LAMP) of the Judith Herb College of Education, and doing his student teaching with Mr. Perlaky.


Student writes about research in Toledo Blade

Saroj Khadka, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Track of our Biomedical Science Program, is conducting his research in the laboratory of Dr. Laura Mike.

"In our lab, we can modify this bacterium so that it can no longer make each piece of the capsule production machinery. Then we compare the capsule of our modified bacteria to the unmodified form of the bacteria. We believe that our findings will pave the way for drug development to dismantle the capsule production and attachment machinery, thus allowing our immune system to recognize and kill invading Klebsiella more easily."

Saroj Khadka, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Track of our Biomedical Science Program, wrote a column in the Toledo Blade discussing his research on bacteria Klebsiella and its attempts to evade our immune system. Saroj is conducting his research in the laboratory of Dr. Laura Mike

Read the article.


Student awarded prestigious fellowship

Saroj Khadka

Congratulations to Saroj Khadka, doctoral student in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, who recently received an American Heart Association (AHA) Predoctoral Fellowship for his project titled, "Mechanism of Klebsiella pneumoniae capsule attachment and its role in pathogenesis."
 
These nationally competitive awards are designed to enhance the integrated research training of promising students who intend careers as scientists or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and brain health.

 

His project will be completed under the mentorship of Dr. Laura Mike (Medical Microbiology and Immunology) and Dr. Peter Andreana (Chemistry). Saroj will use the AHA Predoctoral Fellowship to study how capsular polysaccharides are bound to the bacterial cell surface and how that attachment alters bacterial fitness during bloodstream infections. This two-year award began Jan. 1.

 


UToledo represented at SACNAS Graduate Fair

M.D./Ph.D. student Justin Franco and Dr. Viviana Ferreira, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, are pictured at a graduate fair booth for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Dr. Viviana Ferreira, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, and M.D./Ph.D. student Justin Franco were in Portland this past fall to attend the graduate fair and conference for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science(SACNAS).

They are pictured above at our college's booth.

The largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country, the SACNAS conference (titled the National Diversity in STEM Conference) is a gathering which serves to equip, empower, and energize participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM. There were more than 6,000 attendees to the conference.

Thank you for representing UToledo at this important event! 


Confronting Challenges

There are numerous highly infectious diseases for which we have no vaccine and limited therapeutic options. A $7 million expansion of The University of Toledo’s biosafety level 3 laboratory, led by Dr. Jason Huntley, a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, expands UToledo’s ability to safely study current and emerging pathogens.

The video is part of UToledo's latest campaign, "Confronting Challenges: Addressing Societal Concerns Through Academic Research."


Student writes about research in Toledo Blade

Mir Himayet Kabir, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Track of our Biomedical Science Program, is conducting his research in the laboratory of Dr. Travis Taylor. He pictured next to a computer and research machine.

“Our bodies are exposed to many infectious agents every day. Most of these are blocked by our innate immune system, which acts as our first line of defense to inhibit infection and prevent us from developing a life-threatening disease. My research is focused on investigating ways to manipulate specific parts of the immune system to help prevent disease caused by tick-borne flavivirus infections.”

Mir Himayet Kabir, a Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Track of our Biomedical Science Program, wrote a column in the Toledo Blade discussing his research on tick-borne flaviviruses. Himayet is conducting his research in the laboratory of Dr. Travis Taylor. 

Read the article.


Faculty member receives NIH R35 grant

Laura Mike

Congratulations to Dr. Laura Mike, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, who recently received an NIH R35 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for her project titled, "Control of Klebsiella capsule biosynthesis and attachment."

 

This five-year award began Sept. 1, 2023.

 

These competitive awards provide increased funding stability for investigators to flexibly pursue important research questions that fall within the NIGMS mission. The Mike lab will use the R35 MIRA to study the biochemical and regulatory mechanisms coordinating bacterial capsule biosynthesis and attachment.


Winners announced for the Graduate Research Forum poster and oral presentations 

Participants pictured with the keynote speaker, Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, Professor of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a founding member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

The Council of Biomedical Graduate Students (CBGS) recently presented the Graduate Research Forum. Thank you to all of the students who registered for the forum and the faculty members and post-docs who volunteered to judge the virtual sessions. 

See the full list of winners and read the abstract booklet


MMI Faculty Member Receives AHA Career Development Award

Laura Mike

Congratulations to Dr. Laura Mike, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology who has received an American Heart Association (AHA) Career Development Award for her project titled, “Metabolic and surface-exposed determinants of K. pneumoniae bloodstream dissemination.”   This three-year award begins April 1, 2023.  

 

These competitive awards provide support for highly promising early-career healthcare and academic professionals to explore innovative questions or pilot studies, which will provide preliminary data and training necessary to assure the applicant’s future success as a research scientist.


Congratulations to the 2022 MMI Graduate Student Awardees

SCIGSMSSM
          Sukanya Chakravarty, Iluja Gautam, Sara Moore, Smrithi Sugumaran Menon
 

The Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology has announced this year's awardees for the MMI Graduate Student Awards:

MMI Research Scholar Award (MMIRSA)

  • Sara Moore (MD/PhD student in the lab of Dr. Viviana Ferreira)
  • Smrithi Sugumaran Menon (PhD student in the lab of Dr. Viviana Ferreira)

MMI Research Fellowship Award (MMIRFA)

  • Sukanya Chakravarty (PhD student in the lab of Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay)
  • Iluja Gautam (PhD student in the lab of Dr. Randall Worth)
  • Smrithi Sugumaran Menon (PhD student in the lab of Dr. Viviana Ferreira)

Congratulations to the awardees and their PIs on this achievement!

The MMIRSA award serves to encourage and increase MMI graduate student publications and pre-doctoral fellowship submissions.   More information on the award can be found at this link.


Congratulations to Shumin Fan for her article titled, "Pandemic leads to new discoveries about sewages"

published in the Toledo Blade on March 6, 2023

Shumin Fan

Read the Article


MMI faculty member spends six months learning, collaborating at University of Technology Sydney 

Matson Australia

Dr. Jyl Matson, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, spent six months in 2022 on sabbatical (faculty improvement leave) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), in Sydney, Australia.

During her time at UTS, Dr. Matson collaborated with Professor Diane McDougald and the Microbial Ecology and Evolution group located at the Australian Institute for Microbiology and Infection. The McDougald lab previously demonstrated that Vibrio cholerae, the bacterial cause of epidemic cholera, can survive predation by protozoa in the environment, and that the surviving bacteria show increased infectivity. This suggests that this interaction may be critically important for environmental persistence, transmission, and infectivity of cholera. Therefore, Dr. Matson spent her sabbatical leave learning this model system and investigating the genetic requirements for V. cholerae survival in the protozoa.

Now that she has returned to UToledo, Dr. Matson is working on establishing the protozoa model in her own lab and aims to use it to better understand how stress response mechanisms contribute to bacterial survival.

In addition to performing laboratory research, Dr. Matson was invited to give seminars at three events hosted by the greater Sydney Microbiology community during her stay.

Welcome back, Dr. Matson!  


Joshua Breidenbach, Ph.D.

Josh Breidenbach

February 16, 2023

 

Congratulations! Joshua Breidenbach successfully defended his dissertation titled: "Harmful algal bloom toxin aerosol exposure and airway inflammation."
Advisor: Steven Haller, Ph.D.

Future Plans:  Josh has accepted a PostDoc position at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico.
Email: joshua.breidenbach@rockets.utoledo.edu

 


The Blade: What Happens to Us After Long-Term Exposure to Algal Toxins? It's Still Unclear

Dr. Jason Huntley, a professor of microbiology, Dr. David Kennedy, an associate professor of medicine, and Dr. Steven Haller, an associate professor of medicine, discuss the impact of toxic algae exposure on the health of humans and animals.

 

Read the Article


Smrithi Sugumaran Menon, Ph.D.

Smrithi Sugumaran Menon

January 27, 2023

 

Congratulations!

Smrithi Sugumaran Menon successfully defended her dissertation titled: "Mechanisms by which Factor H protects Trypanosoma cruzi from the alternative pathway of complement."

Advisor: Viviana P. Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Future Plans:  Smrithi has accepted a post-doctoral position at St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital.
Email: smrithi.sugumaranmenon@rockets.utoledo.edu


Congratulations to Justin Franco for his article titled, "UT doctoral student investigates how to help cells fight coronavirus"

published in the Toledo Blade on January 2, 2023

 Justin Franco Toledo Blade

Read the Article


SACNAS Graduate Fair

Ferreira and Franco

Dr. Viviana Ferreira, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, and M.D./Ph.D. student Justin Franco were in Puerto Rico this past fall to attend the graduate fair and conference for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).  They are pictured above standing in front of our college's booth.

Dr. Ferreira reports that this expansive conference's registrants included more than 1,700 professionals, 125 post docs, 1,500 exhibitors and 5,900 general attendees – 3,000 of which are students.

Thank you for representing UToledo at this important event! 


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Last Updated: 6/14/24