Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

MicroSURP 2019

MicroSURP Trainees 2019

The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics offers opportunities for undergraduate students to gain crucial 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 or as long as several years. Interested students are encouraged to contact individual faculty members.

In addition, The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics offers the Microbiology Summer Undergraduate Research Program (MicroSURP), which is detailed below. Students spend 10 weeks working in laboratories of faculty mentors where they perform research 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 Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine.

2024 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 2024 Microbiology Summer Undergraduate Research Program (MicroSURP) will extend from Monday, May 20 to Friday, July 26, 2024. Students receive a $6,000 stipend. Nearby housing is available and is the responsibility of the trainee.


• 40 hours/week of intensive, ‘hands-on’ research experience with a faculty member, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and lab staff
• 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 Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (MID) Graduate Program and the McGovern Medical School Summer Research 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 130 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 historically underserved in science (including Black, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, disabled or disadvantaged individuals) are encouraged to apply.


Complete the application form on the MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences 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 the source of the document [e.g. 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.

  • Application is open on Friday, December 1, 2023
  • All materials (application, transcripts, and letters of recommendation) are due by midnight on Thursday, February 1, 2024 

Questions regarding MicroSURP can be directed to Dr. Heidi Kaplan, Director, MicroSURP.

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the McGovern Medical School Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences for this Program.

MicroSURP Faculty and Research Areas

Click on each faculty member’s name for more information:
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
Anthony R. Flores, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. Streptococcal epidemiology and pathogenomics
Danielle A. Garsin, Ph.D. C. elegans as a model host for understanding the genetics of bacterial infection
Blake Hanson, Ph.D. Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), and vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE); and interrogating the role of the microbiome in implanted medical device-associated infections
Bo Hu, Ph.D. Structure and function of bacterial nanomachines
Heidi B. Kaplan, Ph.D. Cell-cell interactions and signal transduction in bacterial differentiation and biofilm formation
Anna Konovalova, Ph.D. Biogenesis and maintenance of bacterial cell surfaces
Anne-Marie Krachler, Ph.D. Information exchange at the bacteria-host interface
Jayhun Lee, Ph.D. Mechanisms of blood fluke development and immune evasion
Ziyin Li, Ph.D. Cell cycle regulation in trypanosomes
Michael C. Lorenz, Ph.D. Understanding the molecular basis of fungal 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
J. Christian Perez, Ph.D. Transcriptional circuits and fungal-host interplay
Ambro van Hoof, Ph.D. mRNA degradation and quality control of gene expression in eukaryotes
Jennifer Walker, Ph.D. Host-pathogen interactions influencing medical device-associated infections
Chenggang Wu, Ph.D. Cell-cell contact mechanism and communication among oral bacteria in dental plaque formation