Dr. Birgit Pruess


Van Es 108a
(701) 231-7848



  • PhD from Ruhr-Universität Bochum Germany (1991).

Teaching Interests

I am currently teaching MICR 480 Bacterial Physiology and MICR 781 Advanced Bacterial Physiology and am involved in numerous other courses. Teaching and research are very closely interconnected. Data that are obtained from my own research (or the professional literature) will be included in the courses or given out as course projects for analysis. This will give the students first-hand experience with modern technology and analysis methods. All courses involve more assignments than tests and give the students the opportunity to improve many of those skills that they will need in their future careers. Many students decide to join my research lab after the course to further develop those skills.

One of the additional courses that I am involved with is BIOC 720 Scientific Integrity. This important course is team taught by 8 or 10 instructors in a case study style. The topics are in agreement with the requirements by the National Institutes of Health and include research with humans and animals, as well as intellectual property, collaboration, mentoring, and authorship/peer-review. Overall, my courses are designed so they prepare the students for all the challenges on an increasingly more difficult job market.

Research Interests

A new research project in the lab is related to the gut-brain axis, which is a bi-directional path of information between the bacteria in the gut and the human brain. Our research addresses one molecular aspect of this complex interaction; the response of the intestinal bacterial E. coli to neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters have initially described as part of the central nervous system, but are increasingly being recognized for their role in the enteric nervous system. We are interested in hormonal neurotransmitters that occur in the gut in small amounts and are designated as trace amines, including tyramine, tryptamine and especially β-phenylethylamine (PEA); peptide neurotransmitters such as vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) are included.

PEA was identified as an anti-microbial by our own research (Lynnes et al., 2014; Schroeder et al., 2018) when used in the 100 mg/ml range. In the µg/ml range, PEA acts as a chemoattractant (unpublished data) and reduces the expression of the flagellar master operon flhD(unpublished data). Using the well published bacterial response pathways for nor-epinephrine (nEpi) as hypotheses, we are testing the requirement of components of these pathways for the signaling of PEA. In addition, we plan to perform mouse experiments, where the effect of VIP on the abundance and location of E. coli will be determined in wild-type and VIP knock-out mice. We are currently looking for students to join this project.

Awards and Honors

  • Larson/Yaggie Excellence in Research Award, Office of the Vice President for Agriculture and University Extension, 2006.
  • William J. and Angelyn A. Austin Advising Award, Office of the Vice President for Agriculture and University Extension, 2010.

Other Interests

Dancing, biking, gardening, family and friends.

Current Graduate Students

  • August Burg, MS in Microbiology. August works on a new project and determines the effect of human neurotransmitters on bacterial behavior, such as chemotaxis.
    Kwame Nnuro, MS in Food Safety. Kwame is interested in the suppression of the beef microflora by novel anti-microbials.

Previous Students and Their Current Careers

  • Preeti Sule, Ph.D. in Molecular Pathogenesis, graduated in 2011. Preeti is now a research assistant professor at Texas A&M.
  • Priyankar Samanta, Ph.D. in Molecular Pathogenesis, graduated in 2011. Sam is now a research scientist at Johnson & Johnson.
  • Meredith Schroeder, Ph.D. Molecular Pathogenesis, graduated in 2018. Meredith is now a CEO at a start-up company in Fargo.
  • Megan Townsend, MS in Genomics, is employed in our Department.
  • Shane Stafslien, MS in Microbiology, is employed at the RCA at NDSU and my collaborator on numerous papers and grants.
  • Robert Mugabi, MS in Infectious Disease Management just finished his Ph.D. at the University of Vermont.
  • Ty Lynnes, MS in Microbiology, is employed at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
  • Hilary Hafner, MS in Microbiology, is employed at State Seed in Fargo.
  • Laura Nessa, MS in Microbiology.
  • Meredith Schroeder, MS in Microbiology, is currently my Ph.D. student (see above).
  • Jennifer Murphy, MS in Microbiology, is currently employed at Aldevron in Fargo.
  • Sara Smith, MS in Microbiology, is currently employed at Aldevron in Fargo.
  • Enas AlAreef, MS in Food Safety. Enas just graduated in 2019.

Recent Publications

Visit my Google Scholar page to view a complete list of my publications

  1. Schroeder M, Horne SM, and Prüß BM. (2018). Efficacy of β-phenylethylamine as a novel anti-microbial and application as a liquid catheter flush. J Med Microbiol.67(12):1778-1788. Read this paper
  2. Prüß BM. (2017). Involvement of two-component signaling on bacterial motility and biofilm development. J Bacteriol. 2017 Aug 22;199(18). pii: e00259-17. Read this paper
  3. Horne SM, Sayler J, Scarberry N, Schroeder M, Lynnes T, and Prüß BM. (2016). Spontaneous mutations in the flhD operon generate motility heterogeneity in Escherichia coli biofilm. BMC Microbiol. 16(1):262. Read this paper
  4. Chaithawiwat K, Vangnai A, McEvoy JM, Pruess B, Krajangpan S, and Khan E. (2016). Role of oxidative stress in inactivation of Escherichia coli BW25113 by nanoscale zero-valent iron. Sci Total Environ. 565:857-862. Read this paper
  5. Chaithawiwat K, Vangnai A, McEvoy JM, Pruess B, Krajangpan S, and Khan E. (2016). Impact of nanoscale zero valent iron on bacteria is growth phase dependent. Chemosphere.144:352-9. Read this paper
Top of page