As a department, we have two main goals: (1) exploring novel research and (2) sharing with students our fascination and knowledge of dynamic disciplines in microbiology, including bacteriology, epidemiology, fungal biology, immunology, molecular biology, parasitology, and virology. We work to achieve excellence in these areas by creating a student-centered environment that values diversity and encourages discovery, ingenuity, integrity, and collegiality.

All the Places You'll Go

The MICR 354 Scientific Writing students have taken over the homepage for the fall semester. Stay tuned as they profile alumni and share fun, inspiring, micro-related videos. For now, catch up with...

Breanne Steffan, ‘13 B.S. (Microbiology)

Breanne is currently pursuing a PhD (Molecular Pathogenesis) in Dr. Jane Schuh’s lab. Her experiences here at VMS are nothing short of inspirational.

By Rhiannon Dockter, VMS Undergrad

* What course really stuck with you/changed your view of the world?

There isn’t just one course that stuck with me and/or changed my view of the world; however, my experiences as an undergraduate research assistant did have an impact. I started in Dr. Jane Schuh’s lab as the person who took care of the mice and washed the dishes. As time progressed, I was able to become more involved in experiments, and I learned a number of different techniques that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn in class…Working in a lab is akin to being part of a team.
Each aspect is important, even if you are just washing dishes.

* What was your favorite moment or faculty member in the VMS department? Could you share a story about it?

When I was a junior, I was meeting with my advisor, Janice Haggart, and we were discussing my future goals…she never once said that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do… she helped open doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. This includes discussions about the GraSUS program and an undergraduate research opportunity with ASM that I also have Dr. Schuh to thank for. The VMS department is special in that they are welcoming and encouraging. I am fortunate to have been an undergraduate and now a graduate student in this department.

* What was your most embarrassing or profound experience while working in a science lab or class?

Yet again, it wasn’t really in a class or lab that I had an embarrassing or profound experience, but it involved a fellowship with the GraSUS program that I received my senior year. This program takes undergraduate and graduate students involved in STEM disciplines and sends them to area classrooms. I was assigned to an AP Chemistry classroom because there aren’t many schools in the area that have Microbiology classes and I was minoring in Chemistry… I had a pretty profound experience in the class. There were some students that had a hard time asking questions when they didn’t understand the material, and I was able to connect with them…I even had the added thrill of running into one of the students again just a few weeks ago and finding out that they are doing well and that they remembered that time that I spent in their classroom.

* What is your favorite science related movie or book and why?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley because it reminds us that as scientists we have a responsibility to conduct research responsibly and carefully. What we do can have an impact on the future world so we must make it a positive impact.

Alumni Profiles Archive

The Micro Highlight Reel

By Leiah Smolley

Alexander Fleming was frustrated. World War I was raging, and he was serving in the Army Medical Corps watching soldiers die from minor infections. After the war, he went back to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School at the University of London to search for an effective “antiseptic.” On September 28, 1928, Fleming was cleaning his laboratory when he noticed a petri dish that had been sitting in the sink for weeks. The plate had originally been streaked with staphylococcus bacteria, and they were growing everywhere except in a clearing around a contaminating mold colony. Fleming identified the mold as Penicillium notatum and ultimately discovered that this fungus was producing and excreting what came to be the first true antibiotic, penicillin. “One sometimes finds what one is not looking for,” Fleming famously said about his discovery.

For me, antibiotics have always been available, and it never occurred to me what individuals went through before the discovery of these drugs. I feel as though I am too busy to stop and think about how privileged and grateful I should be for everything that has been provided to me and that is exactly what this video made me realize.