The Microbiology Department is one of the oldest departments at Oregon State, originating as a single course in Bacteriology in 1899. Research in those early years focused on bacteriological diseases of animals and vegetables, and the department still supports agricultural research, particularly in the areas of salmon and plant health and food microbiology. However, our research has expanded to explore microbial communities in aquatic environments as diverse as coral reefs and the deep ocean, how bacteria communicate and how microbiomes evolve and function. Many microbes are beneficial, either through mutualistic interactions with their host animal or plant, or through their contributions to nutrient cycling and genetic evolution in the environment. Yet others cause devastating loss of life, not only in humans but in plants and other animals.

Although our research has changed over the years, our mission continues to be to educate students across the breadth of modern microbiology. Through our undergraduate programs in Microbiology and BioHealth Sciences, we now graduate over 200 students annually who are prepared for careers in the health fields as physicians, pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists, clinical laboratory specialists and researchers. A new option in Aquatic Microbiology will prepare students for careers in environmental microbiology and water resources. Some of our students will work in the biotech, food and pharmaceutical industries; others follow a career path into federal research laboratories or academia. These future microbiologists will:

  • Fight emerging and reemerging infectious diseases,
  • Harness microbes to produce green chemicals or to convert biowaste to energy,
  • Discover the environmental roles of the uncultured bacterial and archaeal majority on Earth
  • Decipher the functions of the many unique genes found in prokaryotic and bacteriophage genomes.

The interdisciplinary nature of our research is reflected in our faculty, who have appointments in the Departments of Veterinary Medicine, Statistics and Fisheries and Wildlife; the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences; and the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing. They collaborate with faculty across the university on Microbiome and Marine Studies Initiatives and in BioResource Research and Bioenergy Programs.

The Department of Microbiology is committed to making our science accessible, and to educate a new generation that will contribute to a healthy planet, people and economy.