John R Kirby, PhD
Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Walter Schroeder Professor in Microbiology and Immunology
Microbiology and Immunology
Medical College of Wisconsin
Research Focus: Bacterial Signal Transduction, Microbial Communities, Predator-Prey Dynamics, Xenobiotic Disruption of Microbiomes
PhD: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (1998) Biochemistry
The department is pleased to welcome John R. Kirby, PhD, as Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, effective January 1, 2017. Since 2014, Dr. Kirby has served as Professor of Microbiology at the University of Iowa (Iowa City) and the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. He also is Founding Director of the Iowa Microbiology Microbiome Initiative.
Dr. Kirby graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1992 and received his PhD in Biochemistry from that institution in 1998. From 1998-2002, Dr. Kirby was a postdoctoral fellow in molecular cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Kirby’s major areas of research focus on signal transduction in diverse bacteria ranging from soil dwelling spore formers (Bacillus subtilis and Myxococcus xanthus) to biofilm forming pathogens, to microbial communities in the gut. Dr. Kirby is actively investigating interactions between M. xanthus and B. subtilis as a model for predator-prey interactions in vivo, primarily to assess the role of production of specialized metabolites, similar to antibiotics, on both sides of the predator-prey equation. Additionally, he has been examining the role of xenobiotics (antipsychotics, antihypertensives and antibiotics) for their capacity to disrupt the gut microbiota with deleterious consequences on metabolism.
From 2002-2006, Dr. Kirby was Assistant Professor of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was Associate Professor of Microbiology at the University of Iowa from 2007-2014, before being promoted to the rank of Professor. Additionally at the University of Iowa, Dr. Kirby is a faculty member in the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioengineering; Medical Scientist Training Program; Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs in Genetics and Informatics; Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center; Sloan Center for Exemplary Mentoring; Interdisciplinary Institute for Human Genetics; Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Training Program; Department of Urology (where he also serves as Director of Residents Research); and Obesity Research and Education Initiative.
Dr. Kirby has held numerous professional positions. Since 1997, he has been a member of the American Society of Microbiology; from 2006-2007, he was Division Chair, American Society for Microbiology: Cell and Structural Biology, and served as the Division Advisor from 2007-2008. He was an Instructor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Advanced Bacterial Genetics from 2006-2010. He also serves as Science Advisor for Hennepin Life Sciences, Academic Editor for PLOS ONE, and Chair of the GRC on Sensory Transduction in Microorganisms. Additionally, Dr. Kirby serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of Molecular Microbiology and Frontiers in Microbiology.
Dr. Kirby has been significantly involved in undergraduate, medical student, graduate and postdoctoral education, including serving as a thesis advisor and on thesis committees in anatomy and cell biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, biology, epidemiology, genetics and microbiology. He also continues to serve as a mentor to junior faculty members at the University of Iowa and several other institutions around the country.
Dr. Kirby has participated in approximately 115 invited lectures, workshops and presentations, both nationally and internationally. His bibliography includes 48 articles and book chapters. His work has been reproduced in several textbooks and received recognition in the press, including the New York Times, Popular Science, and Nature Reviews.