Medical Microbiology & Immunology
The Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology (MMI) was formed in 1995 by the merger of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Immunology. The merger recognized the natural link between infectious diseases (offense) and host immunity (defense) as two sides of the same coin, and it positioned our department to become a leader in the growing research field of pathogen-host relationships.
Based on the roots of the Department of Immunology, MMI has evolved into a research-focused environment with core interests in advanced research and training at the graduate level. Many of our faculty are externally funded, allowing them to devote much of their time to research. The main research themes in our department are Bacterial pathogenesis, Immunology, and Virology. More details can be found by following the links in the Research navigation menu on the left and on the individual web pages of our faculty members.
Success in research and a team approach has also resulted in several major infrastructure grants, including recent awards for the Alberta Institute for Viral Immunology (AIVI), Centre of Excellence for Viral Hepatitis Research (CEVHR), Alberta Diabetes Institute and many individual CFI awards. Our expansion is accompanied by a transition into new research space. For the past decade a core group of our immunologists and virologists have been located on the sixth floor of the Heritage Medical Research Centre (HMRC). This year two research groups with an interest in autoimmunity and diabetes moved into adjoining floors of the newly completed Health Research Innovation Facility, east of HMRC (HRIF-east). A second new building west of HMRC (HRIF-west or Katz Group - Rexall Centre for Pharmacy and Health Research [KGR]) will be completed in 2011 and its sixth floor will become the home for our remaining researchers. In addition to laboratory space, the new buildings will include many core facilities with state-of-the-art equipment in imaging, proteomics, and other advanced technologies. For more details, check out the Facilities navigation menu on the left.
Our department is integrated into the health research and basic sciences communities on campus by sharing research facilities, teaching, and seminar series. Moreover, cross-appointed faculty from other basic science departments (eg. Agriculture, Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, and Cell Biology) and from clinical divisions or departments (eg. Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Lab Medicine and Pathology, Nephrology, Neurology, Oncology, Pediatrics, and Pulmonary Medicine) foster fruitful cross-disciplinary interactions that enrich our research and graduate training programs.
As a research-intensive department our main training focus is on graduate studies offering both Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis-based degrees. Our program creates broad competence in all aspects needed for becoming a strong researcher: from experimental design, execution and interpretation, to critical evaluation of the literature and effective communication of science in the form of publications, grants, and seminars.
Beyond hands-on research and course work, students can also broaden their skills in teaching and management. For instance, there is a student representative on all our departmental committees, which provides valuable behind-the-scenes insight into how research, training, recruitment, etc, is managed. Students can also participate in the annual ImmuNet retreat, which is a full day off-campus research extravaganza organized entirely by and for students. For students interested in enhancing their teaching skills, the University Teaching Program (UTP) is an effective way to build confidence and experience, that benefits students whether they wish to become teachers or not. Finally, to keep sight of the future, the department hosts four career talks per year to showcase the diverse set of career choices that are available to our graduates.
MMI does not offer undergraduate degrees, but in 2002 we collaborated with the Department of Biological Sciences to create the immunity and infection (IMIN) specialization. Undergraduates in Biological Sciences who take this specialization are exposed to a broad range of courses to deepen their understanding of immunity in general as well as the mechanisms used by pathogens to avoid the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system.
The people behind MMI
All the buildings and instruments can't make for a successful research and learning environment without a group of dedicated and motived people to convert ideas into knowledge. From our friendly and competent office staff who greet visitors and help run the department, to the support staff, researchers and students who make our research happen, MMI is ultimately about people. To balance work with some fun the staff and, in particular, the students, regularly come up with diversions: both typical (Christmas parties, barbecues, and TGIF get-togethers) and more creative (sock-murder games, curling, and dragon boat racing). At MMI we want to be leaders in research but that doesn't preclude having some fun along the way.