Robert K. Ernst, Ph.D.

MAMPM 2021 Chair-Elect
University of Maryland School of Dentistry

Robert (Bob) K. Ernst, Ph.D., is an Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis in the School of Dentistry and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Medicine. In the fall of 2008, I moved my laboratory from the University of Washington, Seattle, where I was a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a principal investigator with the Northwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (NWRCE) to the University of Maryland. I received my B.S. from the State University of New York at Oswego (biology and chemistry), an M.A. from SUNY Buffalo (Microbiology), and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia (Microbiology) studying retroviral RNA transport, where I was also a fellow in the Myles H. Thaler Center for Retrovirus Research. Subsequently, I was a senior fellow at University of Washington in the laboratory of Samuel I. Miller (Allergy and Infectious Diseases) from 1997 – 2002 before joining the faculty in 2002.

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Brendan Cormack, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Research

The Cormack lab is focused on the molecular understanding of Candida pathogenesis and virulence. We are finding new pathways involved in the relationship between Candida glabrata and the host, and are defining the evolutionary adaptations of Candida that permit it to so successfully colonize humans and cause disease in susceptible patients. It is hoped that a better understanding of these pathways can be exploited to develop potential antifungal therapies for Candida infections.

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Rita Tamayo, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Research

The Tamayo Lab studies how facultative pathogenic bacteria adapt to disparate and changing extracellular conditions. Specifically, we are interested in a bacterial second messenger that transmits signals received at the cell surface to control a wide variety of adaptive responses. This signaling molecule, c-di-GMP, is ubiquitous in bacteria and regulates the switch between motile and non-motile lifestyles in many species. In many cases, the non-motile phase involves development of a microbial community called a biofilm. In some bacterial pathogens, c-di-GMP regulates virulence factor production as well.

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Carleitta Paige-Anderson, Ph.D.
Virginia Union University

Dr. Carleitta Paige graduated from Virginia Union University (VUU) with a B. S. degree in Biology in 2003. Subsequently, she earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Her graduate research involved studying the role of coenzyme A biosynthetic and redox functions in Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax disease. Dr. Paige completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in the Center for Tuberculosis Research to study the pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the etiological agent of tuberculosis disease. In both, anthrax and tuberculosis disease, the contagion is phagocytized by the host macrophages that provide a favorable environmental niche for disease manifestation. Given that each organism renders corresponding signal transduction cascades in response to a wide array of environmental signals, her long-term research interests include in-depth study of these signaling mechanisms to delineate therapeutic targets. Dr. Paige is a member of numerous scientific organizations including, Association for Women in Science, American Society for Microbiology, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Sigma Xi The Scientific Research Society.

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MD A. Motaleb, Ph.D.
East Carolina University School of Medicine

Research

Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most prevalent tick-borne disease placing an increasing burden on public health. Lyme disease is bad—the illness is highly debilitating, and the patients can be bed-ridden and dysfunctional for long periods of time. In addition to Borrelia burgdorferi, spirochetes cause several major diseases in humans such as syphilis, leptospirosis, and periodontitis. These diseases pose significant public health problems throughout the world.

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Melissa M. Kendall, Ph.D.
University of Virginia School of Medicine

Research

My research examines signaling pathways that enable bacterial pathogens to sense and adapt to specific niches within a host to cause disease. Our research focuses mainly on the intestinal pathogens, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. This research will improve our understanding of basic bacterial physiology and may lead to the development of anti-virulence therapies to treat infectious diseases.

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Matthew Wolfgang, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Research

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen responsible for a variety of diseases in individuals with compromised immune function. This organism poses the greatest risk to the hospitalized population, the elderly, immunosuppressed individuals and those with co-morbid illness, such as heart and pulmonary disease, diabetes, cancer and AIDS. The medical importance of this organism is further underscored by the fact that it is the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF) where it causes chronic lung infection. The ability of P. aeruginosa to cause this wide variety of diseases depends on the expression of an array of virulence factors that are associated with the bacterial surface or are secreted into the local environment in response to specific host cues. Further, it appears that differential progression of acute or chronic P. aeruginosa infections involves production of distinct sets of virulence factors. Research in our laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms employed by P. aeruginosa to cause different diseases, with emphasis on the signal transduction pathways that regulate virulence factor expression in response to the host environment.

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