Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

MicroSURP 2021 Trainees Group

MicroSURP 2021 Trainees

The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics offers opportunities for undergraduate students to gain research experience. These are designed to help students with a strong interest in pursuing a PhD degree in microbiology and related biomedical sciences to gain a better understanding of what is expected in a PhD program and strengthen their application for such a program. Many of our faculty have mentored undergraduates from local universities in a research project and hosted them in their lab. These arrangements are highly individualized and can be as short as a summer and as long as several years. Interested students are encouraged to contact individual faculty members. In addition, The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics offers a Summer Undergraduate Research Program, described below. Students spend 10 weeks working in laboratories of faculty mentors where they work side by side with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The program also includes multiple enrichment activities, such as lunchtime seminars, research discussions, and field trips to research facilities, including the Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research.

2021 MicroSURP Trainee Program

Undergraduate students with a strong interest in pursuing a PhD degree in microbiology and related biomedical sciences are invited to participate in this intensive 10-week summer research experience at the UTHealth Health Science Center in Houston, Texas. Each student will have their own research project and work ‘at the bench’ alongside graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research staff, and faculty. The 2021 Microbiology Summer Undergraduate Research Program (MicroSURP) will extend from Monday, May 24 to Friday, July 30, 2021. Students receive a $4,500 stipend. Nearby housing is available.


• 40 hours/week of intensive, ‘hands-on’ research experience with a faculty member, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
• The opportunity to develop your own research project in microbiology/infectious diseases
• Participation in weekly MicroSURP meetings, which include tours of the Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research and the Memorial-Hermann Hospital Clinical Microbiology Laboratory, discussions of the graduate school application process, graduate student presentations, and discussions with microbiology faculty and infectious disease physicians
• Weekly seminars with the McGovern Medical School Summer Research Program and the Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (MID) Graduate Program
• Presentation of your results at the end of the program and the opportunity to include your work in publications and presentations at local and national meetings
• Located in the Texas Medical Center (the world’s largest medical complex) and the vibrant city of Houston with a plethora of entertainment, museums, sports, and outdoor activities
• This Program was initiated in 2006 as part of the Molecular Basis of Infectious Diseases (MBID) NIH-sponsored Training Grant. It has trained over 120 undergraduate students to date. The majority of MicroSURP trainees go on to pursue careers in microbiology and related biomedical sciences.


Applicants must be United States citizens or permanent residents. College sophomores, juniors and non-graduating seniors with GPAs of 3.3 and above will be given highest consideration. Students from groups underrepresented in science (including African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native, disabled or disadvantaged individuals) are encouraged to apply.


Complete the application form on the MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth GSBS Summer Research Program Website:

The following items must be submitted online to complete the application process:

Official or unofficial transcripts (if unofficial the printed page must indicate source of the document, i.e. name of school or registrar’s office, etc.)
Two letters of recommendation (must come directly from the referees). Name and email information are needed to complete this section of your application. An email from the application system will be sent to these two people requesting them to submit their letters before the deadline. The letters may come from a professor, employer, volunteer director, etc.
A personal statement is required at the end of the application (300 words). Please review the guidelines (located in the area before the Personal Statement block) and consider preparing your personal statement before beginning the application.
Select five possible faculty mentors from the “MicroSURP Faculty and Research Areas” list below.

Applications no longer being accepted for Summer 2021.

Questions regarding MicroSURP can be directed to Dr. Heidi Kaplan (MicroSURP Director), or Drs. Theresa M. Koehler and Michael Lorenz (Molecular Basis of Infectious Diseases [MBID] Training Grant Program Co-Directors).

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Gillson Longenbaugh Foundation for this Program.

MicroSURP Faculty and Research Areas

Click on each faculty member’s name for more information:
Robert Britton, Ph.D. Intestinal bacteria in health and disease
Peter J. Christie, Ph.D. Type IV secretion systems in bacterial pathogenesis
Charles Darkoh, Ph.D., MS., MSc. Molecular mechanisms of Clostridium difficile-associated infections and irritable bowel syndrome
Nicholas R. DeLay, Ph.D. Molecular mechanisms by which small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) regulate gene expression
Danielle A. Garsin, Ph.D. C. elegans as a model host for understanding the genetics of bacterial infection
Magnus Höök, Ph.D. Molecules of pathogens involved in adherence to host tissues, particularly the host extracellular matrix
Bo Hu, Ph.D. Structure and function of bacterial nanomachines
Julian Hurdle, Ph.D. Antibiotic resistance in Clostridium difficile infections
Robert Jenq, M.D. Microbiome in cancer treatment
Heidi B. Kaplan, Ph.D. Cell-cell interactions and signal transduction in bacterial differentiation and biofilm formation
Nayun Kim, Ph.D. Mechanisms of mutagenesis and chromosomes rearrangements in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Natasha Kirienko, Ph.D. C. elegans as a model to study bacterial stress and pathogenesis
Anne-Marie Krachler, Ph.D. Information exchange at the bacteria-host interface
Theresa M. Koehler, Ph.D. Genetics, physiology, and virulence gene regulation in Bacillus anthracis
Anna Konovalova, Ph.D. Biogenesis and maintenance of bacterial cell surfaces
Ziyin Li, Ph.D. Cell cycle regulation in trypanosomes
Michael C. Lorenz, Ph.D. Understanding the molecular basis of fungal infections
Anthony Maresso, Ph.D. Pathogenesis of bacterial infections
William Margolin, Ph.D. Targeting and assembly of the bacterial cell division complex
Kevin A. Morano, Ph.D. Protein chaperones and stress response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Timothy G. Palzkill, Ph.D. Structure-function properties of β-lactamases; functional genomics
Joseph Petrosino, Ph.D. Metagenomics and genetic interactions between commensal microbiota and the host
Christian Perez, Ph.D. Transcriptional circuits and fungal-host interplay
Samuel Shelburne, M.D., Ph.D. Interactions of basic metabolic processes and bacterial virulence
Ambro van Hoof, Ph.D. mRNA degradation and quality control of gene expression
Jennifer Walker, Ph.D. Host-pathogen interactions influencing medical device-associated infections
Yi Xu, Ph.D. Host-pathogen interactions in Bacillus anthracis infection; bacterial activation of the actin cytoskeleton; bacterial breaching of the mucosal barrier
Lynn Zechiedrich, Ph.D. Fluoroquinolone resistance in E. coli; DNA topoisomerases, DNA structure, and DNA topology; gene therapy