It is a pleasure to welcome you to the website of the Department of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University in Saint Louis, School of Medicine. One of the major achievements of biomedical science of the 20th Century was reducing the threat posed to humans by infectious disease through the introduction of antibiotics and vaccines. Despite that success, emerging infections and the rise of drug resistant microbes continues to pose a serious threat to human health.

Our mission is to understand the fundamental basis by which microbes multiply, interact with their hosts and cause disease, and to leverage that knowledge to facilitate the advancement of countermeasures against infection. We are committed to training a diverse cadre of scientists and clinicians as the next generation of leaders in the discipline of microbiology. We work closely with our clinical colleagues to advance and improve patient care through understanding microbial causes of disease and enhance transitions from bedside to bench to bedside.

The department has a rich history that dates back to 1928 when Jacques Jacob Bronfenbrenner, a phage biologist, served as chair of the Department of Bacteriology & Immunology. Arthur Kornberg became chair in 1953, and during his time, isolated DNA polymerase I a discovery that led to his 1959 Nobel Prize. Herman N. Eisen who made foundational discoveries in the affinity maturation of antibodies was appointed chair in 1961, and his successor Joseph M. Davie, appointed in 1975, carried out some of the earliest quantitative analyses of B cell responses. Staffan Normark became chair in 1989 and made seminal contributions in understanding bacterial colonization of cell surfaces including understanding how Helicobacter pylori attaches to gastric epithelia. In 1997 Stephen Beverley was recruited as chair, making major contributions to molecular parasitology, notably with Leishmania where he has also studied endosymbiontic viurses.

We are a diverse group of students, fellows, and faculty supported by an exceptional network of staff that together constitutes a welcoming and vibrant community. The 16 primary faculty study bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites with an exceptionally strong focus on emerging and neglected diseases and antimicrobial resistance. We are located in state of the art facilities in the McDonnell Pediatric Research Building and the BJC Institute of Health building. The department maintains several laboratories equipped for the study of pathogens at biosafety level 3, an imaging facility, and a media preparation service. Additional state of the art core facilities ( are available to us including the Washington University Center for Cellular Imaging.

We have close ties to several centers on campus, including the center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research, founded by Scott Hultgren in 2009 (, and a newly founded Vaccine Center.

With colleagues from Infectious Disease and Pathology and Immunology, we form a nidus for the Washington University Microbial Pathogenesis community that includes our thriving graduate programs in the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences ( We are also active participants in the Medical Scientist Training Program (

Our weekly event schedule includes a thriving seminar program (Tuesdays at 12 noon), trainee talks (Thursdays at 9 am), and a Friday afternoon social hour.

Please explore the webpages within this site to learn more about our community.

My best,
Sean Whelan, Ph.D.
Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor and Chair of Molecular Microbiology