M&I Faculty Receive NIH Grants

M&I Assistant Professor, Dr. Kevin Sokoloski, was awarded a National Institute of Health R01 Grant titled "Comprehensive Definition of the Critical Role(s) of the Alphaviral Noncapped Genomic RNAs to Infection and Pathogenesis." The grant, funded by the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is budgeted until 2025 for a total amount of 1.9 million dollars.  

M&I Associate Professor, Dr. Bing Li, renewed his National Institute of Health R01 Grant titled "E-FABP mediates n-3 fatty acid-induced tumor prevention through epigenetic control of immune cell differentiation and function." The grant, funded by the National Cancer Institute is budgeted until 2025 for a total amount of 1.8 million dollars.  

M&I Professor and Vice Chair, Dr. Haribabu Bodduluri, was awarded a National Institute of Health grant titled "Functional Microbiomics, Inflammation and Pathogenicity." The grant, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, is budgeted into 2021 for a total amount of $345,000.

Dr Kevin Sokoloski     Bing Li     Dr. Bodduluri

(From left to right: Dr. Kevin Sokoloski, Dr. Bing Li, Dr. Haribabu Bodduluri) 

Department Welcomes New Staff Member

Ms. Allison Tracy, B.A. joined the Department on November 2, 2020 as our new Graduate Program Coordinator. Allison was previously an Admissions Counselor and is currently working toward a Master of Education in Student Affairs in Higher Education. Welcome Allison! 

Incoming Students of 2020 to go through e-orientation

On Monday August 10 the Department of Microbiology & Immunology will host a virtual orientation for our Fall 2020 incoming students.  Faculty who are accepting new students into their laboratories will e-present their programs.  Welcome Taylor Garrison, Michelle Hallenbeck, Katelyn Sheneman, Peter Shin, Shikha Srivastava and Cassie Woolley!

Dr. James Collins Joins M&I Faculty

Dr. James Collins Joins M&I Faculty

Dr. James Collins

Dr. James Collins joined the faculty as tenure-track Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, starting January 1, 2020.  Dr. Collins’ research focuses on the factors that underlie the spread of of epidemic, hypervirulent Clostridium difficile.  His recent discovery of the link between dietary trehalose and C difficile virulence was recently published in Nature (  Welcome James!

Department Welcomes New Staff Members

Ms. Stephanie Kittle, B.S. and Ms. Shelley Spalding, M.A., M.A.T. joined the Department on December 9 as our new Unit Business Manager and Graduate Program Coordinator, respectively.  Stephanie was the UBM at the Diabetes and Obesity Center in the School of Medicine previously.  Shelley was a student teacher at Bardstown High School prior to her current position.  Welcome Stephanie and Shelley!

M&I Ph.D student receives University ExCITE grant

Henry NabetaM& I student Henry Nabeta received an ExCITE award of $50,000 for his project "Developing Q-Griffithsin as a new anti fungal agent".  UofL’s ExCITE program is funded through the National Institute of Health’s Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) program. The goal of the program is to support proof-of-concept centers (hubs) that facilitate and accelerate the translation of biomedical innovations into commercial products that improve patient care and enhance health.

Department Welcomes Incoming Students of 2019

Monday, August 12, the Department of Microbiology & Immunology welcomed  the incoming M&I graduate students with a luncheon in the CTRB.  Incoming students include Richard Bautista, Easton Ford, Kamille Rasche, Omar Sarker, Caleb Whitley and Matthew Woeste.

2019 New student orientation lunch.                

M&I PhD Candidate receives NIH F31 award

PriceSarah Price, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Lawrenz, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for her PhD research entitled “Identification of a novel zinc acquisition system in Yersinia pestis”. This three year fellowship will support Sarah’s research in the field of nutritional immunity.



Dr. Bing Li appointed University Scholar

Bing LiDr. Bing Li, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, was recognized as University Scholar in April 2019, an honor bestowed on select faculty  who significantly exceed the scholarship necessary for appointment, promotion and tenure at U of L and in doing so achieve a strong national reputation.  He is the second M&I faculty to receive this title.

2019 Research Grant Awards

 Dr. Chung received a 5 year NIH U19 award (U19-AI142762) entitled“Center of Excellence for Encephalitic Alphavirus Therapeutics”, as MPI/Project leader.




EgilmezDr. Egilmez was awarded a two year Idea Development grant (LC180086)  from the DOD Lung Cancer  Research Program for a project entitled “Overcoming Anti-PD-1 Resistance in Lung Cancer” (PI) and a 3 year R44 award from the NIH (R44-DK117687) entitled “IL-10NanoCap for Therapy of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis” (MPI).




ShirwanDr. Shirwan was awarded a two-year NIH R21 grant (R21-AI147677) entitled “Establishing immunoprivileged scaffolds for transplantation of immature beta cells.





Matthew LawrenzDr. Matt Lawrenz is co-investigator on an NIH STTR (R41-AI142726) grant entitled “Use of a Designer Proline-rich antimicrobial peptide Chaperone protein inhibitor (DPC) for treating antibiotic resistant pneumonia” with a subaward to his laboratory.  The project period is 4/1/2019 – 3/31/2020.

M&I Faculty Receive Multiple Awards in 2018

M&I Endowed Chair Professor Yousef Abu-Kwaik was recently awarded a National Institute of Health R01 grant entitled "Innate immunity and inflammatory response of macrophages to Legionella infection".  The grant received a score of 1%.  This NIH funded project is budgeted from 09/14/2018 - 08/31/2023 for $1,913,286.

M&I Associate Professor Esma Yolcu recently received a SBIR Phase I award from the National Institute of Health entitled “Exploiting activation-induced cell death as a means of inducing tolerance to kidney allografts”.  The award is a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

M&I Associate Professor Esma Yolcu and M&I Professor Haval Shirwan recently received a $500,000 gift in memory of William Marvin Petty, MD.  The funds are to be used to advance Type 1 Diabetes research conducted in the School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology.  Dr. Yolcu and Dr. Shirwan’s research focuses on the use of ProtEx technology, pioneered by the team, as an alternative to gene therapy for immunomodulation to treat transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases with particular focus on Type 1 Diabetes.     


M&I Professor Haval Shirwan received a five year NIH/NIAID R01 grant award in support of the application entitled “A novel immunomodulatory approach to overcome innate and adaptive immune barriers to islet transplantation”.  The project is for the period  11/5/2018 – 10/31/2023 with a total budget of $1,943,360.


M&I Associate Professor Bing Li was recently awarded a National Institute of Health R01 grant entitled "Immunomodulatory mechanisms of E-FABP in psoriasis pathogenesis".  This NIH funded project is budgeted from 09/24/2018 - 08/31/2023 for $1,925,000.


M&I Associate Professor's Matthew Lawrenz (PI) and Jonathan Warawa (Co-PI) were awarded a contract from the FDA entitled “Development of a Mouse Model for Preclinical Screening of Investigational Drugs Against Pseudomonas Aeruginosa and Acinetobacter Baumannii”.  The $933,606 award runs from 9/19/2018 to 9/18/2020.



Dr. Abu-Kwaik


Dr. Shirwan


Dr. Yolcu

Bing Li

Dr. Li

Matthew Lawrenz

Dr. Lawrenz

Jonathan Warawa

Dr. Warawa

Department is awarded first NIH T32 training grant in its history

M&I received the notice of award for its NIH T32 training grant application entitled “Inflammation and Pathogenesis Training Program” on August 1st.  Dr. Haval Shirwan (Professor, M&I) is the contact PI and Dr. Richard Lamont (Chair, Department of Oral Immunology and Infectious Disease) is the Co-PI on this award.  The grant will support 4 PhD students per year during the 5 year period 8/1/2018-7/31/2023.  This collaborative effort between M&I and OIID is the first NIH T32 training award in Department’s history.

Haval Shirwan    Lamont





Dr. Haval Shirwan         Dr. Richard Lamont

M&I Faculty Publish Back-to-Back High Impact Articles in 2018

Bing LiDr. Bing Li's discovery of a novel molecular link between obesity and breast cancer entitled "Circulating Adipose Fatty Acid Binding Protein is a Link Underlying Obesity-Associated Breast/Mammary Tumor Development," appeared in the online version of the November 2018 issue of Cell Metabolism (2017 impact factor 20.565).  The study was the result of a long-standing collaborative project between the Li lab and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, Hartford Healthcare Cancer Center in Connecticut and Peking University in China.  Separately, Dr. Bing Li was selected to be featured in NCI’s electronic newsletter, Nutrition Frontiers, a publication of the Nutritional Science Research Group (NSRG), NCI, NIH. The NSRG Program staff selected him based on the high level of enthusiasm for his research efforts on Prevention of Breast cancer Development by Epidermal Fatty Acid Binding Protein as well as his past contributions in the field of nutrition and cancer prevention.  He will be featured in the section, “Investigator Spotlight” in October.






Haval Shirwan

Dr. Haval Shirwan, along with a team of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan published on a potential new therapy for treating Type 1 Diabetes.  This new therapy involves the use of a novel technology for islet cell transplantation.  More information regarding Dr. Shirwan's, et al., research may be found in Nature Materials (2017 impact factor 39.737).






Huang-Ge ZhangDr. Huang-Ge Zhang’s paper entitled “Plant-derived exosomal microRNAs shape the gut microbiota” has been accepted for publication in the journal “Cell Host Microbe” (2017 impact factor 17.87).  The article will be featured on the cover.   It describes the novel finding that diet-derived exosome-like nanoparticles can selectively modulate the metabolism of gut-resident bacteria via microRNA, which ultimately impacts  immune homeostasis in the gut.


M&I Faculty Awarded Multiple NIH/NIAID Grants in 2017

M&I Associate Professor Matthew Lawrenz was recently awarded a National Institute of Health R21 grant entitled "Zinc Acquisition in Yersinia pestis".  The major goal of this project is to define the contribution of the yersiniabactin synthase-dependent zinc acquisition system on the virulence of Yersinia pestis.  This NIH funded project is budgeted from 11/24/2017 - 10/31/2019 for $437,080.

M&I Professor Dr. Esma Yolcu recently awarded a National Institute of Health SSRT grant to study “SA-FasL-engineered human islets as a novel product for the treatment of type 1 diabetes."  The major goal of this phase I STTR application is to develop SA-FasL-engineered human islets as a novel immune privileged product for the treatment of type 1 diabetes (T1D).  This NIH funded project is budgeted from 07/01/2017 – 03/30/2018 for $224,529.00.


M&I Professors Drs. Thomas Mitchell and Carolyn Casella were recently awarded a National Institute of Health R01 grant to study “Mechanisms of successful vaccine adjuvants." This NIH funded project is budgeted from 06/26/2017 – 05/31/2022 for $1,925,000.



Drs. Haval Shirwan and Esma Yolcu have been awarded a multiple PI NIH/NIAID UO1 grant with Andres Garcia from Georgia Institute of Technology. The grant is entitled “Targeted delivery of immunomodulatory biologics for induction of immune privilege to allogeneic pancreatic islet grafts”.  The major focus of this project is to develop immunomodulatory biomaterials for induction of tolerance to allogeneic islets as a cure for type 1 diabetes.  The award amount of $1,954,270 is budgeted for 06/20/20176 – 05/31/2022



M&I Professor and Vice Chair, Haribabu Bodduluri, PhD was awarded a grant titled ‘Innate immune mechanisms regulating silicosis”. This NIH/NIAID funded project is budgeted from 6/6/2017 - 5/30/2019 for $423,500. This research is important to explore the mechanisms of their recent work on silicosis and lung cancer;

Hari Bodduluri


M&I Associate Professors Drs. Jon Warawa and Matt Lawrenz were recently awarded an NIH/ NIAID grant contract to study “Therapeutics Testing In a Murine Model of Multiple Drug Resistant (MDR) Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Lung Infection.” This NIH/ NIAID funded project is budgeted from 03/2017 – 11/2018 for $729,174.

Jonathan Warawa     Matthew Lawrenz


M&I Assistant Professor Dr. Krishna Jala was recently awarded a National Cancer Institute of National Institute of Health R21 grant to study “PQ-10:  Microbial metabolite, Urolithin A is a potent immunomodulator and chemosensitizing adjuvant in treating color cancer.” This NIH funded project is budgeted from 04/12/2017 – 03/31/2019 for $368,445.


M&I Associate Professor Dr. Jon Warawa was recently awarded an NIH/ NIAID grant contract to study “HHSN272201000033I/HHSN2720005 / Task A91- Mod #1.” This NIH/ NIAID funded project is budgeted from 03/21/2017 – 05/25/2018 for $508,703.


M&I Professor Dr. Nathan Schmidt was recently awarded an NIH/ NIAID grant contract to study “Role of gut microbiota in shaping severity of malaria.” This NIH/ NIAID funded project is budgeted from 01/11/2017 – 12/31/2021 for $2.6M.

Student Highlights

M&I Student Publishes New Findings in mBio

 Bethany Vaughn, Microbiology and Immunology PhD Candidate in the lab of Dr. Yousef Abu Kwaik, recently published a paper in mBio. The paper, titled "An Indispensable Role for the MavE Effector of Legionella pneumophila in Lysosomal Evasion" can be found here.  Image: Bethany Vaughn 


M&I Student Publishes New Findings in Viruses

Trey LandersM&I Ph.D. Candidate, V “Trey” Landers (in the Sokoloski Lab) has recently published a paper regarding his dissertation research in the journal Viruses. The paper, titled “The Alphaviral Capsid Protein Inhibits IRAK1-Dependent TLR Signaling” reports the identification of a novel host / pathogen interaction, and can be found hereImage: Trey Landers 




M&I Students Publish New Findings in PLOS Pathogens 

Hannah Hanford

Current M&I Ph.D. student, Hannah Hanford (AbuKwaik lab) and M&I graduate Dr. Juanita von Dwingelo (AbuKwaik lab) have jointly published a paper in PLOS Pathogens. The paper, titled "Bacterial nucleomodulins: A coevolutionary adaptation to the eukaryotic command center" can be found here.   Image: Hannah Hanford




M&I Graduate Students Present at American Society for Microbiology Fall 2020 Research Meeting

The M&I Department was well represented at the KY/TN Branch of the American Society for Microbiology Fall 2020 Research Meeting on December 5th. Trey Landers (Sokoloski Lab), Autumn LaPointe (Sokoloski Lab), Sarah Price (Lawrenz Lab), Drew Skidmore (Chung Lab), and Claire Westcott (Sokoloski Lab) were invited to give oral presentations on their thesis projects. Congratulations to Sarah and Trey for receiving the top awards at the meeting for their presentations!

 Trey Landers Autumn LaPointe Sarah Price Drew Skidmore Claire Westcott Jones

(From left to right: Trey Landers, Autumn LaPointe, Sarah Price, Drew Skidmore, Claire Westcott) 

M&I Graduate students win University doctoral awards

Dylan Johnson and Irina Miralda received University’s Guy Stevenson Award and the John Richard Binford Memorial Award, respectively.

Please click here to view Dylan Johnson's virtual Graduate School Graduation speech.

The Guy Stevenson Award recognizes an outstanding doctoral degree recipient who has demonstrated excellence in both scholarship and leadership within the discipline, and has made significant contributions to teaching and service. This award is the highest award given by the Graduate School and the winner carries the graduate school banner at both the Doctoral Hooding and Commencement Ceremonies, and provides remarks during the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony.  The Binford Award is presented to a doctoral degree recipient who excels in scholarship, and has contributed to other areas within the discipline such as leadership, teaching, or service.  The winner receives special recognition at the Doctoral Hooding and Graduation ceremony.  Congratulations Dylan and Irina!

Autumn LaPointe wins presentation award at Viruses 2020 conference in Barcelona

Autumn LaPointe, PhD candidate, received the best oral presentation award, elected by the scientific committee and sponsored by the journal Microorganisms, for her talk entitled “Noncapped genomic RNA are critical for Alphaviral infection and pathogenicity”. LaPointe is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. KevinSokoloski. Read more at




M&I students receive 1st and 2nd place for doctoral dissertation at Research! Louisville

Congratulations to Autumn LaPointe on receiving 1st place and Samantha Morrissey on receiving 2nd place for the  2019 Research!Louisville Doctoral Basic Science award. Autumn is a doctoral candidate in the lab of Dr. Kevin Sokoloski and Samantha is a doctoral candidate in the lab of Dr. Jun Yan. Read more at:



2019 T32 Awardees announced

The Inflammation and Pathogenesis T32 Training Grant is excited to announce its newest PhD graduate student fellows: Drew Skidmore, laboratory of Dr. Donghoon Chung, Trey Landers, laboratory of Dr. Kevin Sokoloski, and Sarah Price laboratory of Dr. Matthew Lawrenz. These students will join 2018 fellow Autumn LaPointe, laboratory of Dr. Kevin Sokolowski, in the program. 

 This year M&I’s summer high school program MISTRE merged with Louisville Science Pathways, which is the Science Policy and Outreach Group’s University-wide internship program. This merger expanded the opportunities to include weekly career seminars, and how to apply to two- and four-year colleges, with emphasis on careers in the biomedical field. Altogether, seventeen 10th and 11th graders experienced hands on research projects.  M&I provided stipends to two of the seventeen participants, Awa Koita from Central High, and Osazuwa Omoruyi from St. Francis; who were hosted in the labs of Drs. Venkatakrishna Jala and Sylvia Uriarte, respectively. During their internship, the students participated in mentored biomedical research, focused on the roles of microbial communities inhuman disease.

MISTRE is coordinated by Claire Jones, and Louisville Science Pathways is coordinated by Dylan Johnson and Sarah Price. Claire, Dylan and Sarah are all PhD candidates in the Department.

The Microbiology and2018 SLB Group Immunology Department was well represented by its graduate students at the 2018 Joint Meeting of the Society for Leukocyte Biology and International Endotoxin and Innate Immunity Society in October. Amanda Pulsifer (laboratory of Matthew Lawrenz) was one of three finalists for the SLB Presidential Award, which included the opportunity to present her research at a plenary session during the first day of the meeting. Katlin Stivers’ research (laboratory of Jay Hoying) was also highlighted and she was chosen to give a “Poster Flash Talk”. Irina Miralda (laboratory of Silvia Uriarte) won a SLB travel Award for her poster presentation. Finally, Hazel Ozuna (laboratory of Don Demuth) was selected to present her research at the Late Breaking Research Poster Session. Congratulations to all of the students!

Tiva Vancleave, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Lawrenz, has been awarded the 2018 University of Louisville School of Medicine Student Diversity Award.  This award acknowledged Tiva’s commitment to the educational and societal needs of underrepresented minorities through mentorship and service during her PhD career. Tiva was recognized for this award during the 2018 PhD Commencement Ceremony, where she also received a Dean’s Citation for her PhD research on the YapE protein of Yersinia pestis.


Hazel Ozuna, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Donald Demuth, has been awarded a five year F31 Research Fellowship from the National Institiute of Dental & Craniofacial Research for her project entitled: "Exploitation of the host response by Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans mediated by QseBC".



Katlin Stivers, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. James Hoying, has been awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association for her project entitled "Regulation of Adipose Tissue Inflammation by Resident Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells". The two year award will fully support her research investigating the role of tissue resident, immunosuppressive myeloid cells in promoting immune homeostasis in healthy, lean adipose tissue and preventing the chronic inflammation that can lead to the development of obesity.

Earlier this year, Katlin also received a travel award to give an oral presentation on her current work "Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells in Adipose Tissue Homeostasis" as  part of the Kaley Lecture featured topic session, "The Complications of Diabetes and the Role of Inflammation: Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities" at the Experimental Biology 2017 Conference, April 22-26, Chicago, IL.

Amanda Pulsifer was awarded a “Best Poster Presentation” prize at The Yin and Yang of Phagocytes: Regulators of Human Health and Disease Gordon Research Conference, June 11-16, Waterville Valley, NH for her work entitled “Exploitation of Host Rab GTPases by Yersinia pestis Facilitates Intracellular Survival”. Amanda is a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Lawrenz.



M&I Faculty Receive Excellence in Education Awards

M&I Welcomes Incoming Students of 2017

Monday, August 7, the Department of Microbiology & Immunology welcomed  the incoming M&I graduate students with a luncheon in the CTRB. Incoming students include Anne Geller, Melissa Henckel, Zak Henn, Claire Jones, Consolee Karangwa, Trey Landers, and Rejeena Shrestha.



M&I students publish first author papers

M&I students publish first author papers

Shuvasree Sengupta

Two M&I students recently published their first - first author papers in August and September. 

Shuvaree Sengupta, PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Thomas Mitchell was first author on a paper published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology in August.  Shuvaree’s  paper “A Pseudomonas aeruginosa hepta-acylated lipid A variant associated with cystic fibrosis selectively activates human neutrophils” published in Journal of Leukocyte Biology can be found here:

ArmstrongCortney Armstrong, PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Silvia Uriarte was first author on a paper published in Infection and Immunity in September.  Cortney’s  paper “Filifactor alocis promotes neutrophil degranulation and chemotactic activity” published in Infection and Immunity can be accessed here:

Metagenomics and health proposal selected to be funded




Dr. Nejat Egilmez, chairman of Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology and Dr. Rich Lamont, chairman of Oral Immunology and Infectious Diseases, along with the School of Public Health and the Kent School of Social Work drew up a metagenomics and health interdisciplinary proposal which was recently selected to be funded. The iRFP proposal, “Program in Metagenomics and Health,” has been selected to be funded January 1 - December 31, 2017, with the possibility of annual renewal through 2019. The award is $250,000 for the current year. Annual assessment will be directed by the sponsors of the program, the Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies and the Vice President for Research and Innovation, who will review progress for a recommendation to the president and provost.


M&I Heart Walk a success!

Heart Walk 2016

On Saturday, September 17th at Waterfront Park, M&I PhD student, Nikki Warner headed up a volunteer group from the department of Microbiology and Immunology and it's friends and family in the Kentuckiana Heart Walk, an American Heart Association event designed to raise money and awareness to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke. Nikki was happy to report that the event was a huge success:

We had 15 walkers, walked 3 miles, and raised $644!!!  This is the most we have ever raised (since I’ve been Team Captain) and it’s the most walkers we’ve ever had in one year!!  I can’t thank everyone enough for the donations!  I would like to especially thank our great walking team for getting up early and trudging through the rain!  You guys were champions!

Thank you everyone for another successful year!