December 2017

We would like to welcome new MBIM Graduate Students! First-year GPIBS graduate students Susie Brown (Stumhofer Laboratory), Bernice Nounamo (Liu Laboratory), Hayley Theriot (Weinkopff Laboratory), and Nicole Turnage (Forrest Laboratory) joined the Microbiology & Immunology Department.

October 2017

Congratulations to Johnasha Stuart and William MacCain, who received awards at the Graduate Student Research Symposium. Johnasha won first place in the oral presentation category. William won first place for his poster presentation.

Congratulations to Johnasha Stuart, who received the Charles S. McCleskey Award at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) South Central Branch Meeting, October 20-21, in Little Rock. The McCleskey award is for the outstanding research presentation by a Ph.D. student at the meeting. Congratulations, Johnasha!

Congratulations to Dr. Karl Boehme, who received the Charles C. Randall Award at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) South Central Branch Meeting, October 20-21, in Little Rock. The Randall Award is given to annually to an outstanding young faculty member from within the geographic boundary of the South Central Branch of the ASM. Dr. Boehme joins Dr. Mark Smeltzer, Dr. Dan Voth, and Dr. Jon Blevins as Departmental faculty members who have received the Randall Award.

We would like to welcome Dr. Steven Conrad as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Jia Liu’s laboratory. Dr. Conrad received his B.S. from Purdue University and subsequently worked in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of areas including, type 2 diabetes, muscle frailty, and infectious diseases. He received his Ph.D. from Western Michigan University, with a focus virology. He comes to UAMS from a previous postdoctoral position at the USDA where he studied avian herpesviruses.

September 2017

Congratulations to Joe Rom and Danielle Atwood from the Smeltzer Laboratory on the publication of their paper, “Impact of Staphylococcus aureus Regulatory Mutations That Modulate Biofilm Formation in the USA300 Strain LAC on Virulence in a Murine Bacteremia Model” in the Virulence.

We are proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Kevin Young as the new chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Young moved to UAMS in 2009 from the University of North Dakota and has been a Professor in the Department since that time. Congratulations Dr. Young!

Congratulations to Katelynn Doiron, Clay Litteken, and Joe Rom who successfully defended their qualifying exams and are now full-fledged Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology!

August 2017

Congratulations to Dr. Richard Morrison on his appointment as the Executive Associate Dean for Research for the UAMS College of Medicine. Dr. Morrison has served as the chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology since 2007. He will remain a member of the Department faculty and continue his research and teaching efforts. We wish him the best of luck in his new position!

Publication of a new study from Bernice Nounamo and the Liu laboratory “Myxoma Virus Optimizes Cisplatin for the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer In Vitro and in a Syngeneic Murine Dissemination Model” in Molecular Therapy Oncolytics.

July 2017

Congratulations to Aru Gupta and the Forrest Laboratory on the publication of their paper, “Murine Gammaherpesvirus 68 Expressing Kaposi Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Latency-Associated Nuclear Antigen (LANA) Reveals both Functional Conservation and Divergence in LANA Homologs” in the Journal of Virology.

June 2017

Congratulations to Aru Gupta who received a Student Travel Award from the American Society for Virology to attend the Annual Meeting in Madison, WI.

May 2017

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Smeltzer and the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Responses (CMPHIR), on being awarded Phase II funding from the NIH through the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). The award totaling $11 million dollars over 5 years provides funding for research related to the pathogenesis of, and immune responses to, microbial diseases. The CMPHIR was established in 2012 with a Phase I award through the COBRE and the new funds will allow those efforts to continue through 2022.

April 2017

Tiffany Weinkopff, Ph.D., has joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Weinkopff earned her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. She completed her postdoctoral training with Phillip Scott, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Weinkopff’s laboratory will focus on defining host immune responses to Leishmania. Welcome, Dr. Weinkopff!

March 2017

Congratulations to Bernice Nounamo and the Liu Laboratory on the publication of their paper, “An interaction domain in human SAMD9 is essential for myxoma virus host-range determinant M062 antagonism of host anti-viral function” in Virology.

January 2017

Welcome new MBIM Graduate Students! First-year GPIBS graduate students Amanda Dragan (Voth Laboratory), Samantha Huckuntod (Pechous Laboratory), Aura Ramirez (Smeltzer Laboratory), and Dina Zita (Boehme Laboratory) joined the Microbiology & Immunology Track.

April 2016

Congratulations to Daniel Meeker who was awarded $500 for the New Investigator Travel Award at the 2016 International Congress of Hyperthermic Oncology (ICHO) in New Orleans, LA. Daniel’s abstract titled “Designing novel antibiotic-loaded, targeted nanoparticles to eradicate Staphylococcus aureus planktonic cultures and biofilms” was also selected for an oral presentation.     

Congratulations to Jacob Latham who won second place in the Graduate student poster section at the 6th Annual UAMS Student Research Day held April 13, 2016, on campus in the I. Dodd Wilson Educational building. Jacob’s poster was titled “Assessing differential gene regulation triggered by environmental temperature in Borrelia turicatae.”

New Ph.D. Graduates

Kerry Evans successfully defended her dissertation on April 7, 2016 titled “Peptidoglycan modifications in Escherichia coli are monitored by the Rcs phosphorelay, the Cpx pathway, and the Tol-Pal complex” under her advisor Dr. Kevin Young. Kerry has joined the Office of Grants and Scientific Publications (OGSP) here at UAMS as a Research Associate under the direction of DeAnn Hubbard. Kerry works with UAMS investigators to develop manuscripts and grant proposals for external research funding by providing writing and editing support along with consultation and guidance.

Jeffery Sifford successfully defended his dissertation on April 25, 2016, titled Gammaherpesvirus interactions with tumor suppressor p53 under his advisor Dr. Craig Forrest. Jeff will pursue his postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Junmin Peng at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital beginning August 15, 2016. Research in Dr. Peng’s lab focuses on applying systems biology approaches to better understand neurodegenerative diseases and developing new technologies for mass spectrometry.

New Faculty (March 2016)

Roger Pechous, Ph.D., has joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Pechous earned his Ph.D. at the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2008. He completed his postdoctoral training with William Goldman, Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Pechous’s research program focuses on the pathogenesis of pneumonic plague.  He is interested in identifying factors that contribute to the severity of infection, particularly the role of host inflammatory responses

New Ph.D. Graduate

Eduardo Salinas successfully defended his dissertation on November 19, 2015, titled Elucidating LANA’s Roles during Gammaherpesvirus Pathogenesis under his advisor Dr. Craig Forrest. Eduardo will pursue his postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Tem Morrison at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus beginning August 15, 2016. Research in Dr. Morrison’s lab focuses on defining how arthropod-borne viruses and parasites cause disease.

New Ph.D. Graduates (February 2016)

Allister Loughran successfully defended his dissertation on February 29, 2016, titled “The role of sarA and proteases in defining Staphylococcus aureus as an orthopedic pathogen” under his advisor Dr. Mark Smeltzer. Allister has accepted a postdoc position at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, he will be joining the lab of Dr. Elaine Tuomanen, MD studying the molecular pathogenesis of Streptococcus pneumoniae invasion and inflammation.

Danielle Fortune successfully defended her dissertation on August 20, 2015, titled, “Investigating virulence determinants in Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi,” under her advisor Dr. Jon Blevins.  Danielle was accepted into the SPIRE postdoctoral training plan at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, in September 2015, she joined the lab of Dr. Rita Tamayo studying pathogenesis and gene regulation in Clostridium difficile.

Congratulations (December 2015)

Congratulations to Daniel Wikenheiser, Elizabeth Naglak and Matthew Phillips on their awards at the Southeast Regional IDeA Meeting in Biloxi, MS on November 13, 2015. Daniel Wikenheiser received an award and $500 for 1st Place in the Graduate Poster Competition for his poster titled “Memory Tfh cells promote rapid Ab production following secondary Plasmodium infection.” Elizabeth Naglak and Matthew Phillips tied for 2nd place in the Graduate Poster Competition, each received an award and $250. Naglak’s poster was titled “Optimal Antibody-Mediated Immunity to Chlamydia Genital Infection Requires IFNγ Activation of an Effector Cell Population.” Phillips’ poster was titled “Non-structural protein sigma 1s enhances reovirus replication in endothelial cells.”

Congratulations (October 2015)

Dr. Jon Blevins, an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, was elected the Vice President/President-elect of the South Central Branch of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).  The ASM, which is a professional organization for scientists in the microbial sciences, is the oldest and largest life science membership organization in the world. The South Central Branch of the national ASM, founded on 1947, was established to support networking and collaboration of microbiologists in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  As Vice President/President-elect, Dr. Blevins will participate in governance, financial administration, and reporting of the South Central Branch, as well as the organization of the annual regional meetings.  Dr. Blevins’ term begins in 2016 and will run for four consecutive years.

New Faculty (August 2015)

Lin-Xi Li, Ph.D., joined the Department as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Li earned her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in 2009. She completed her postdoctoral training with Stephen McSorley, Ph.D., at the Center for Comparative Medicine at the University of California Davis. Dr. Li’s research program focuses on the host adaptive immune responses to Chlamydia female reproductive tract infection.

New Awards and Announcements

Mark Smeltzer, Ph.D. (PI) received funding June 15, 2015, from National Institute of Health for his project titled “Impact of Staphylococcus aureus in osteomyelitis and bone physiology.” This 5-yr award worth a little over $1.8 million will focus on defining the S. aureus virulence factors responsible for the extensive bone destruction and remodeling seen in osteomyelitis and the mechanistic basis by which these virulence factors drive these processes.

Jon Blevins, Ph.D., has been awarded a two-year grant of more than $400,000 by the National Institutes of Health to study the genetics of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The goal of the research is to identify specific genes required by B. burgdorferi to live in a mammal or a tick. Through genetic manipulation, certain genes believed to help the bacteria adapt, especially during infection and transmission, can be mutated to inactivate individual genes. If the mutated bacterium then either fails to grow or cause infection, this gene is likely very important to the bacterium. Knowing the identities of these essential bacterial genes could give scientists a better understanding of how to prevent infection or treat Lyme disease.

Chia Lee, Ph.D., has been awarded a five-year grant of more than 1.7million by the National Institute of Health for his project titled “Virulence gene regulation in Staphylococcus aureus.” Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen that produces many virulence factors that are regulated by an equally impressive number of regulators. How virulence factors are regulated is not fully understood. The major goals of this project are to advance our understanding of how these virulence factors are regulated and to define the contribution of virulence regulation to staphylococcal pathogenesis.

Congratulations to Caylin Winchell who received a Travel Award from the FASEB MARC program which was presented at the American Association of Immunologists 2015 Annual Meeting. The poster she presented was titled “Manipulation of macrophage autophagy by Coxiella burnetii.”

Karl Boehme, Ph.D. received an R56 award from the National Institutes of Health for his project entitled “Mechanisms of reovirus bloodstream dissemination”. This is a High Priority, Short-Term project grant for one-year of funding worth over $350,000. The award will fund research to understand how viruses gain access to the bloodstream, which is a fundamental step in the development of many viral diseases.

 

New Ph.D. Graduates

Joseph Graham successfully defended his dissertation on April 16, 2015, titled “Defining the Human Alveolar Macrophage Response to the Q Fever Agent, Coxiella burnetii” under his advisor Dr. Dan Voth. Joseph has joined the laboratory team of Dr. Matt Welch at the University of California, Berkeley.

Justin Graham successfully defended his dissertation on April 28, 2015, titled “Trapping and identification of cellular substrates of the chaperone ClpC and determining how they regulate virulence genes in Staphylococcus aureus” under his advisor Dr. Chi Lee. Justin will be joining the laboratory team of Dr. Matthew Wolfgang at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill September 1, 2015. Dr. Wolfgang’s lab is focused on Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenesis.

 

Celebrated Careers

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology recently celebrated the careers of Professors Roger G. Rank, Ph.D. and Marie Chow, Ph.D.

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The Department of Microbiology and Immunology and colleagues throughout UAMS celebrated the 22 years of distinguished service of Marie Chow, Ph.D., at a June 16 reception. Above right: Dr. Chow smiles as fellow faculty members pay tribute. Recently retired Roger Rank, Ph.D., (above left, and with UAMS colleagues in the photos below) joined in the celebration.

 

Dr. Rank joined UAMS in 1976 and served as a Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology (MBIM) until May of 2015.  Dr. Rank also served as the Interim Chair of MBIM from 1991-1992 and was the Chair from 1992-2007. During his tenure at UAMS, Dr. Rank was awarded Red Sash Award 10 times, the Golden Apple Award in 2009 and the Gold Sash Award in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  He served and chaired on numerous local and international committees, including the Scientific Advisory Committee at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Rank was a prolific writer, authoring 113 peer-reviewed publications and numerous book chapters and reviews.

“Under Dr. Rank’s leadership the department grew both in faculty number and extramural grant support.  He led by example, maintaining a continuously funded laboratory until his retirement.  His contributions to UAMS, MBIM and the extramural scientific community will be missed,” said Microbiology and Immunology Chair Richard. P. Morrison, Ph.D..

Dr. Chow was recruited to the UAMS Department of Microbiology and Immunology (MBIM) in 1993, and served as Professor in both MBIM and Pathology until June 2015. She held multiple positions during her tenure, including serving as the Associate Director for Shared Resource, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and as the Interim Director of UAMS BioVentures from 2013 to 2015. Other UAMS departmental and institutional administrative responsibilities include, Graduate Program Admissions Committee 1993-2015, Director of Graduate Program 1994-2001 and 2008-2015, UAMS Patent and Copyright Committee 1991-2006, Consortium founding member 1993-1999 and Medical School Admissions Interviewer 1997-2005 and 2008-2015, just to name a few.

“Dr. Chow worked tirelessly on behalf of UAMS.  Her passionate approach to mentorship of junior faculty, not only in our department but across campus, had a profoundly positive impact on their careers.  I will miss Marie’s candid, and often spot-on, discussions” said Dr. Morrison.

  

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March 12, 2015

Congratulations to graduate students, Joey Graham and Elizabeth Naglak on their awards at the South Central Branch of the American Society of Microbiology Conference, held September 2014.   Graham received the Charles S. McCleskey Award for Best Graduate Student Oral Presentation for “The living human lung: A model for Coxiella burnetii pathogenesis.” Naglak won second place in the poster presentation for “Interferon-gamma is necessary for optimal antibody-mediated protective immunity to Chlamydia muridarum genital infection.”

Jason Stumhofer, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor) and Craig Forrest, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor) were the recipients of a Medical Research Endowment Award for their collaborative work on “B cell progenitors as a latent reservoir for MHV68 infection.” This one year award, which began January 1, 2015, investigates a recent discovery by Dr. Stumhofer’s lab of a B cell progenitor population that expands in the spleen of mice during Plasmodium infection. Further research has shown that inflammation after a number of infections can induce this population to expand and differentiate into B cells, including infection with the mouse gammaherpesvirus MHV68, which Dr. Forrest’s lab investigates.   As this virus preferentially establishes latent infection in B cells, they hope to determine if the virus utilizes this expanding B cell progenitor population as a means to establish a latent infection.

Usha Ponnapan, Ph.D. (Professor) is the Co-Investigator on a VA Rehabilitation R&D Award with Dennis Richard, Ph.D. (PI).   This grant, “Immune function and muscle adaptations to resistance exercise in older adults” began August 2014 and is a four year award.   Dr. Ponnapan and Dennis will conduct a double-blind randomized trial of a nutritional supplement (Muscle Armor) to determine if the supplement boosts gains in muscle mass, strength, and function for older adults during resistance exercise training by dampening inflammation so that the immune system is stimulated to support muscle growth and maintenance.


 

COMmunication August, 2014