Chair's Message

David Sherman, Chair              

Even a casual glance around is enough to make clear that microbes rule the world. From the hottest, driest deserts to permafrost and vents on the ocean floor, microbes are found virtually everywhere we look. There may be as many as one trillion different species of microbes, and an estimated 99.99% have yet to be described. Together, these invisible occupants have literally reshaped our planet.  They are responsible for oxygen appearing in our atmosphere, and for the decay and recycling of all dead organic matter. Each human body houses about 10 trillion cells, and at least the same number of microbes live both on and inside us. We owe to microbes the gifts of bread, wine and chocolate, and recent evidence shows that our development and our immune systems have been intimately shaped by longstanding yet highly dynamic interactions with our microbial companions. At the same time, the worst threats to human life throughout history have come from infectious microbial invaders.

We in the Department of Microbiology embrace microbes in all their glory. Throughout our 100+ year history, we have contributed substantially to studying microbial diversity, how it is maintained and how it shapes the world around us -- and today, the pace of discovery is accelerating like never before. Revolutions are underway in our ability to see, analyze in culture, analysis and information technologies that are completely transforming how we approach our discipline. These new tools are revealing rich new insights with dizzying speed. The microbes however, continue to do what they’ve done for billions of years – grow, interact, evolve, and shape the world around them -- and we will continue to study them, to focus particularly on the bacteria and viruses that threaten human health and on strategies to combat them, and to harness microbial power to improve life where possible. Through our research and teaching we will continue to train the next cohort of the world’s leading microbiologists.

See here for links to some of our recently published research: https://microbiology.washington.edu/