This is an exciting and rewarding time to begin a career in biomedical research. The pace of scientific discovery is breathtaking. Endless opportunities exist for our graduates as they begin their careers.
Extraordinary research opportunities are available within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and collaborative research units including the Division of Infectious Disease and HIV Medicine in the areas of:
- Molecular and human genetics
- Malarial and bacterial pathogenesis
- Emerging disease and biodefense
- Opportunistic infections
- Experimental therapeutics and diagnostics
- Cancer biology
Continued advances in technology and collaborative interdisciplinary research between basic and clinical scientists will be the key to innovation and new discovery in the next decade. Research conducted within the department will be of tremendous importance to the growing national and international health care needs.
We are committed to understanding molecular mechanisms of infectious diseases within the human population and the development of strategies to prevent and/or treat these acute, chronic, and latent infectious diseases.
The research programs of our faculty are funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of General Medical Science and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
For more information on individual faculty members, their research interests, and training opportunities offered by our outstanding faculty, please explore the department's web page through the links at the left.
News and Announcements
In CD4 Hunter™, players enter the bloodstream as an HIV particle, hunting for and infecting CD4+ T cells, which are the white blood cells of the adaptive immune system. Another game, Malaria Invasion™, enables users to learn more about malaria by following Plasmo the Invader™ (named after the parasite Plasmodium) on his quest to infect a human. Researchers Brian Wigdahl, PhD, and Sandra Urdaneta-Hartmann, MD, PhD, MBA, from Drexel’s Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease, expect to use these games as supplementary teaching tools for graduate students and undergraduates in advanced-level courses. Read more.
Lying inside a freezer in Drexel’s College of Medicine are 500 dead, mourned by no one. The deer ticks, dog ticks, lone star ticks and other tiny parasites in the diminutive morgue traveled from nearly every state in the country to reach this resting place. They arrived in baggies or cookie tins or what-have-you, scooped from meadows and forests by helpful volunteers responding to a “call for specimens” on Drexel’s website that was posted by Kayla Socarrás, a doctoral student studying microbiology and immunology. Each tick contains multitudes of smaller organisms — a grab-bag of the pathogenic bacteria that make tick bites so hazardous. Read more.
Michael Nonnemacher, PhD, can remember when, as a teenage science geek, he would tell his friends that someday he'd find a cure for AIDS. "Back in the 1980s and 1990s, we knew so little about the disease, and I was naïve about what it really meant to be able to accomplish such a thing," says the associate professor in Microbiology & Immunology. As a graduate student at Penn State University, Nonnemacher started working with Brian Wigdahl, PhD, examining how genetic variations of HIV might impact proteins important for the virus's replication in immune cells. When Wigdahl was recruited to Drexel, Nonnemacher went with him. Read more.
Vanessa Pirrone, PhD '09, was a high school science teacher when she first studied HIV with her students — a formative moment in her decision to go back to school and pursue a research career. "We read a book about the discovery of the HIV virus in the 1980s, and I found it fascinating — namely, the idea of identifying an infectious disease that is afflicting so many people," says the assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology. "I wanted to know how you identify a disease like that, and how you delve deeper to understand the mechanisms at work." Read more.
Malaria Invasion Receives Gold Medal
Congratulations to the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and the Institute for Molecular Medicine & Infectious Disease, whose game Malaria Invasion was awarded a gold medal by the 2019 International Serious Play Award program! Dr. Mary Ann Comunale, creative director, and Dr. Sandra Urdaneta-Hartmann, project director, will be traveling to the Serious Play Conference, where they will present game-based learning research and accept the award. John Harvey, a co-op student hired by the Institute and funded in part by the Steinbright Career Development Center, shares in the award as part of the game design team and game developer. John is currently a senior in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design program.
2019 Mary Dewitt Pettit Fellowship Awarded to Dr. Comunale
Mary Ann Comunale, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and director of the department's Center for Scientific Communication and Outreach, received the 2019 Mary Dewitt Pettit Fellowship. Originally established jointly by the Trust Fund of the Alumnae/i Association of WMC/MCP and the estate of Mary DeWitt Pettit, MD, and donated by the Trust Fund to Drexel University in 2015, this $10,000 fellowship supports research or other special projects of junior female faculty members at the College of Medicine.
2019 Golden Apple Awards
Several of the department's faculty were recognized for excellence in teaching and outstanding service at the 2019 Golden Apple Award Ceremony. Vanessa Pirrone received an award from the Class of 2021 for teaching in the Case-Based Learning curriculum. Other Golden Apple nominees included James Burns, Donna Russo and Kirsten Larson.
Three-Minute These Winner
Scientists have made new headway in understanding how a deadly pathogen evolves during chronic lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. "By looking at changes in the genome over time, we were able to see patterns — common themes that help us to better understand how this particular species evolves in its environment and how CF patients become chronically infected," said study co-corresponding author Joshua Chang Mell, PhD, an assistant professor at Drexel University College of Medicine. Drexel Now (March 21, 2017)
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In the Media
June 13, 2019: A microbiology and immunology research lab that focuses on identifying diseases carried by ticks, led by Garth Ehrlich, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology, was mentioned in a Philadelphia Inquirer story about a similar lab currently being operated at East Stroudsburg University.
April 23, 2019: Kayla Socarras, a Microbiology & Immunology PhD student, was quoted in a Yahoo! Lifestyle story about an impending uptick in bug populations this summer and how to avoid tick bites.
January 3, 2019: Alison Carey, MD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, was quoted in a Health story about how long cold and flu germs can live on surfaces like doorknobs and subway poles.
November 8, 2018: Garth Ehrlich, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology, was featured in a Philadelphia Inquirer story about his research investigating whether bacteria can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
October 22, 2018: "Pivotal moment for NetScientific's Glycotest Inc with $10 million financing"
Technology developed by Drexel University College of Medicine, Department of Microbiology & Immunology for the early detection of liver cancer has received a $10 million in series funding from from Fosun Pharma. Drexel University has licensed the patented technology to Glycotest, Inc. Fosun will receive exclusive licensing to manufacture and sell the Glycotest Inc. HCC Panel, in China.
Related Faculty: Dr. Mary Ann Comunale, Dr. Anand Mehta, Dr. Timothy Block (Inventors)
October 21, 2018: Joshua Chang Mell, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, is quoted in a PNAS Journal Club article about research he did to identify the genetic variations that enable nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) to adapt to life in the lungs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
April 2018: Sandra Urdaneta-Hartmann, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, was quoted in a post on EdSurge about CD4 Hunter, a game created by a group of College of Medicine researchers to teach students about the life and replication cycle of HIV.
April 24, 2018: Akhil Vaidya, PhD, a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, was quoted in a Science News story on a new genetically-modified plant that may bolster our supplies of antimalarial drugs.
April 15, 2018: Sandra Urdaneta-Hartmann, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, was interviewed on an episode of TWiV (This Week in Virology) about "CD4 Hunter," a game created by College of Medicine researchers to teach users about how the HIV virus infects.
August 23, 2017: Garth Ehrlich, PhD, professor in the Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, was quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer story about a project his lab is undertaking to collect ticks from the public and use advanced gene sequencing techniques to study their microbiomes. Dr. Ehrlich’s research study was also quoted in a KYW-Newsradio (1060-AM) on August 26.
July 24, 2017: Carla Brown, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow, was interviewed for a WHYY/Newsworks.org story about "CD4 Hunter," a game created by Brown and researchers in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology that teaches players how HIV infects and replicates in the human body.
May 19, 2017: A Bucks County Courier Times article about the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, which quoted Garth Ehrlich, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Microbiology & Immunology, and Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, was picked up by WCAU-TV (NBC-10)'s website.
May 12, 2017: Garth Ehrlich, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, was quoted in a Bucks County Courier Times story about the difficulty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.
March 29, 2017: Joshua Chang Mell, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, was quoted in a Cystic Fibrosis News Today story about a recent study he published, which profiled the genes of bacteria commonly found in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.
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