October 31, 2019
This really is a special year. Not only is the medical school celebrating its 50th anniversary, but our Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Samuel Kaplan, PhD, was the department’s inaugural chair. He was recruited from the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana to start the department in 1989. Dr. Kaplan was the perfect choice to start this new department. The department had modest beginnings with laboratory space in the John Freeman Building, classroom space in the Medical School Building, and a small but mighty faculty. In his first year, Dr. Kaplan recruited one full professor, one associate professor, four tenure-track assistant professors, and two medical school teaching faculty. Within a short time the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics graduate program was up and running. Four of the founding faculty remain at McGovern: Drs. Peter Christie, Heidi Kaplan, and Theresa Koehler in the Department of MMG, and Dr. John Spudich who is now faculty in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Theresa Koehler, PhD, the Herbert L. and Margaret W. DuPont Professor in Biomedical Science, succeeded Dr. Kaplan as chair in 2013. She was hired by Dr. Kaplan in 1991 as an assistant professor and rose to the rank of professor in 2005. Dr. Koehler is taking the department to new heights. Today the department has 18 faculty, with one new faculty member to begin in 2020. The department’s innovative and nationally recognized discovery research program includes five areas of excellence: cell cycle and development, gene regulation, host-pathogen interactions, microbial stress response, and molecular machines. The department provides didactic and experiential training to medical students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Many departmental faculty participate in the Molecular Basis of Infectious Diseases T32 Training Grant funded by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease.
The department will host a celebration of its history Nov. 8 with invited talks from alumni and a special historical overview from Dr. Sam Kaplan. Friends and colleagues of the department are invited to register for the event in advance.
Please join me in congratulating the department on this wonderful milestone.