Joerg Graf, Ph.D.

University of Connecticut Storrs, CT

Candidate for the Council on Microbial Sciences
Professor and Associate Department Head, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.
 
Dr. Graf performed key roles in establishing two model systems for studying the interaction of beneficial bacteria and animals. His innovative research demonstrated the importance of the type three secretion system in both beneficial and pathogenic associations, and revealed the in vivo physiology of the microbiome and growth conditions for uncultured bacteria using metatranscriptomics. He published over 60 peer-reviewed manuscripts. In addition, he participates actively in promoting symbiosis and microbiome research by organizing conferences, interacting with the media, and being active in professional societies.

Education:
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. 1995. Ph.D. Major Advisor: Ned Ruby.
  • Baylor University, Waco, TX. 1989. B.S.

Professional Experience:
  • University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland      1996 – 2001    Group leader
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.          2002 – 2008    Assistant Professor
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.          2008 – 2014    Associate Professor
  • Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA.                  2010 – 2012    Visiting Scientist
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.          2014 – Present Professor

ASM Activities:
  • Applied and Environmental Microbiology Editorial board (2006 – 2014)
  • American Society for Microbiology, General Meeting Organizing Committee (2011 –  2015)
  • American Society for Microbiology, Chair of Division I: General Microbiology (2012 – 13)
  • Principle Co-organizer for the 4th ASM Beneficial Microbes Conference in San Antonio (2012)
  • Organizing Committee for the 5th ASM Beneficial Microbes Conference in Washington, DC (2014)
  • American Society for Microbiology, Microbiome Communication Taskforce (2015 – 2016)
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (2019 – present)

Publications:
  1. Beka, L., M. S Fullmer, S. M. Colston, M. C Nelson, E. Talagrand-Reboul, P. Walker, B. Ford, I. S. Whitaker, B. Lamy, J. P. Gogarten, and J. Graf. 2018. Low-level antimicrobials in the medicinal leech select for resistant pathogens that spread to patients. mBio 9: e01328-18.
  2. Benjamino, J., S., Lincoln, R. Srivastava, and J. Graf. 2018. Low-abundant bacteria drive compositional changes in the gut microbiota after dietary alteration. Microbiome 6: 86.
  3. Nelson, M.C.,, H.G. Morrison, J. Benjamino, S.L. Grim, J. Graf. 2014. Analysis, Optimization and Verification of Illumina-Generated 16S rRNA Gene Amplicon Surveys. PLOS One 9(4): e94249.
  4. Colston, S., M. Fullmer, L. Beka, B. Lamy, J. P. Gogarten*, J. Graf*. 2014. Evaluation of Bioinformatic Genome Comparisons for Taxonomic and Phylogenic Assignments using Aeromonas as a Test Case. *Co-corresponding authors. mBio.02136-14.
  5. Silver, A.C., Y. Kikuchi, A. A. Fadl, J. Sha, A. Chopra and J. Graf. 2007. Interaction between innate immune cells and a bacterial type-three secretion system in mutualistic and pathogenic associations. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 104:9481-9486. Graf, J. 1999. The symbiosis of Aeromonas veronii biovar sobria and Hirudo medicinalis: a novel animal model. Infect. Immun. 67:1-7.
  6. Graf, J. and E. G. Ruby. 1998. Host-derived amino acids support the proliferation of symbiotic bacteria. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 95:1818-1822.

Research Interests:
My research program centers on the interaction of the microbiome with their host animal, ranging from invertebrate model organisms to humans. I use a combination of molecular genetics, microscopy, comparative genomics and 16S rRNA gene surveys to identify mechanisms that beneficial microbes use to interact with their native host. This has led to findings that impact other fields. For example, such as the discovery that very low levels of antibiotics inside leeches led to rise of ciprofloxacin resistant bacteria that cause infections in patients receiving leech therapy, or the use of metatranscriptomics to determine the growth conditions for previously uncultured leech symbionts.

Statement:
My goal for serving on the ASM Council on Microbial Science is to be a voice for the members. ASM is facing important challenges and as a consequence our society is undergoing changes that affect all members. ASM is a very large volunteer organization but its membership is declining. I think it is critical that ASM implements ways to serve its members better. I would view my role as helping to inform ASM and find ways to implement changes that address these needs.
Providing members with value and ensuring that meetings and conferences meet the member’s needs are of primary importance to me. ASM needs to provide students and postdoc members with extra value. This could be by providing student members with enhanced professional education opportunities and better tools for finding jobs. I have attended the ASM General meeting every year since being a graduate student, because I valued the opportunity to meet thought leaders, receive feedback during the poster sessions, and learn about a wide range of topics in microbiology. ASM Microbe and ASM Conferences have undergone major changes and I want to help ensure that these conferences continue to meet the needs of all attendees.
As a researcher who runs a federally funded lab with a nice mix of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers and an educator who teaches a semester-long undergraduate courses, I have insights into the different needs of trainees, educators and researchers. By finding ways that especially trainees benefit from ASM memberships, I hope to contribute to making ASM an even better society.

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