Letter from the Chair

The Department of Microbiology & Immunology, in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University Medical Center, is distinguished by its emphasis on research that bridges the study of infectious microbes and the response of hosts to such pathogens. Our objective is to understand the molecular basis of infectious disease, and our research is focused on immunology, model systems, and pathogenesis. The development of powerful new genetic and molecular technologies now makes it possible to answer fundamental questions in these areas that were previously intractable.

The outcome of infection with any microorganism is determined by the properties of the infecting agent and host environment. A complete understanding of the molecular basis of any infection requires detailed knowledge of the biology of the infectious agent and an understanding of how host proteins recognize pathogen cues that control susceptibility and resistance to infection, including the basis of the immune response.

Our departmental Graduate Training Program in Microbiology and Immunology of Infectious Diseases is unique at Columbia University on its emphasis in integrating these principles into a unified agenda of research into infectious diseases. The goals of our training program are (1) to provide a broad and sound education in the molecular biology and genetics of infectious disease and immunology and (2) to provide rigorous research training in an environment dedicated to advancing biomedical science. The students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty in Microbiology & Immunology form a cohesive group with its own identity, while taking full advantage of the tremendous breadth of expertise and knowledge contained within other departments.

Students pursue a set of core courses taught throughout the Medical Center, and in addition can select individual courses and electives tailored to their interests and thesis research priorities. Courses, seminars and data clubs are structured so as to enhance interactions between students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty with different ideas and research interests. We are particularly proud of the congenial nature of our department, which fosters consultation, collaboration and mutual enrichment.

The Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the Columbia University Medical Center was the university's first medical science degree-granting program, and has a long tradition of making outstanding contributions to biology and medicine. For six decades, our department was home to Elvin A. Kabat, one of the founders of modern immunochemistry, and was the catalyst for many new discoveries in immunology. In 2008, under the leadership of Dean Lee Goldman, Columbia University embarked on an ambitious program to revitalize and expand its research capability in immunology. As part of this initiative, I was recruited from Yale University to assume the role of Chair. We have initiated and implemented significant new changes, including the recruitment of new faculty, renovation of our physical infrastructure and revitalization of our graduate program. We are excited about the future and in my role as Chair I would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty, as we work together to create new and exciting discoveries that advance our knowledge in microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases.

Sankar Ghosh, Ph.D.
Chair of Microbiology & Immunology