Messages from the Chair & Associate Chair

Microorganisms make up an estimated 60% of Earth’s living matter and play an integral role in supporting life on our planet. Microbes are responsible for the recycling of organic matter, synthesis of nutrients within the food chain, and digestion of many foods within our intestinal tract. In the biotechnology field, microorganisms are used for the synthesis of chemicals, drugs, and vaccines that help maintain our health. Conversely, some microorganisms present a challenge to human, animal and plant health through the development of infectious diseases, chronic inflammation conditions and even cancer.

Host immunity is a powerful tool to keep these microorganisms and their associated diseases in check. However, as with microorganisms, immunity can be a two-edged sword. Inappropriate or persistent activation of the immune system can lead to autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, allergy and asthma. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many cancers, and can have devastating effects on health.

Professors and students within the Department of Microbiology & Immunology strive to understand how microorganisms interact with their hosts and the environment and how host immunity responds to microbial and other threats. Our work spans from studies probing the mechanisms of viral, bacterial, parasite and fungal diseases to those that seek to expand our understanding of host defence against infection and the mechanisms underlying the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

This is an exciting time to work in microbiology and immunology at McGill! In 2018, we launched MI4 - the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity . MI4 brings together over 250 researchers, clinicians and clinician-scientists from across the McGill academic network to tackle infectious and immune threats to human health. Supported by a 15 million-dollar donation from the Doggone Foundation, MI4 supports innovative discovery research, cutting-edge scientific platforms and ambitious interdisciplinary translational research projects that deliver solutions to the populations that need them the most.

Teaching is fundamental to our mission as a Department. Our diverse and energetic faculty and staff provide a rich and exciting environment for our undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral trainees. Our undergraduate curriculum has recently undergone renewal, and I am pleased to announce the creation of an Associate Chair (Education) position to build on this momentum and ensure the continued development and evolution of our teaching programs. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Samantha Gruenheid in her new role in this position.

Spend some time looking through our website, or even better, stop by and talk with us about the exciting research and teaching initiatives going on in our Department!

Dr. Don Sheppard
Chair, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

There has never been a more exciting time to be a student (or a professor!) of Microbiology and Immunology. Cancer immunotherapy, antibiotic resistance, and genome editing with CRISPR-Cas are just some examples of current hopes, threats and controversies intrinsically linked with our field. In addition, the environment to support teaching and learning at McGill has never been better. I am therefore enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute to the continuous development and renewal of our department’s undergraduate and graduate education programs. By engaging and enabling our students to develop cutting-edge knowledge, expertise, critical thinking and communication skills, we aim to give students all the tools and skills to engage with the challenges and opportunities that await them after graduation.

Dr. Samantha Gruenheid
Associate Chair (Education), Department of Microbiology & Immunology
Back to top