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Anne Dunn, Department Head of Microbiology, smiles in a professional headshot

Announcing new Gorman Faculty Scholar as incoming Department Head of Microbiology

By Erica Martin

Following a competitive national search, the College of Science and the College of Agricultural Sciences is excited to announce Professor Anne Dunn as Department Head of Microbiology, effective January 1, 2024. Dunn brings expertise in departmental leadership from the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology at the University of Oklahoma, as well as extensive research experience and undergraduate and graduate student mentorship.

“I am delighted to congratulate Anne Dunn on her appointment as the next head of the Department of Microbiology. An accomplished scholar, Anne has also proven herself to be a capable leader, adept at fostering collaboration, promoting equity and inclusion, and advocating for her department,” said Vrushali Bokil, interim dean of the College of Science.

“I'm inspired by her commitment to both individual members and the broader community's vision and goals. Under her leadership, the microbiology department will continue to serve students and address societal concerns in significant ways.”

I'm inspired by her commitment to both individual members and the broader community's vision and goals. Under her leadership, the microbiology department will continue to serve students and address societal concerns in significant ways.

Recently honored with the distinguished Regents’ Professorship at the University of Oklahoma in recognition of her service as department chair, Dunn’s professional service also includes election to the leadership of the American Society for Microbiology Division K (2014-2017), service on the Applied and Environmental Microbiology Editorial Board since 2016, service on numerous NSF proposal review panels, and ad-hoc manuscript and proposal review for over 35 journals, agencies and foundations. Her research focuses on host-microbe interactions and marine microbial physiology, which she has consistently received NSF funding for, totaling over $1.7 million since 2008.

Dunn will join the College of Science as the newly appointed Gorman Faculty Scholar for a period of three years, starting January 1, 2024, with an expectation to provide outstanding scholarship and leadership, enriching and enhancing the reputation of the microbiology department, the College and the university.

"I am honored to join the Department of Microbiology,” said Dunn. “It is an exciting opportunity to use the leadership skills I have developed in new and meaningful ways to collaborate with the members of this outstanding, dynamic, and dedicated department. I look forward to working together to further build the department’s impacts in teaching, research, outreach, and service."

Dunn received a Ph.D. in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.S. in biology from Iowa State University.

The Dunn lab integrates research approaches in microbial physiology, genetics and biochemistry with bioinformatics to gain a deeper and broader understanding of microbial physiological processes and how they impact bacterial growth, survival and their role in host interactions and ecosystem function. Her graduate and postdoctoral training focused on the beneficial interactions between bacteria and plant and invertebrate hosts. When starting her laboratory at University of Oklahoma, she focused on bacterial physiology and how it impacts the relationship between Vibrio fischeri and the Hawaiian bobtail squid.

Her research has since expanded to include other marine model bacteria and how their physiology impacts their growth and survival. Currently, her focus is on NSF-funded work to understand the influence of the respiratory protein alternative oxidase on microbial physiology and marine ecosystem function while also providing insight into the evolutionary history of this interesting protein.

The Colleges of Science and Agricultural Sciences are grateful for the service of Steve Giovannoni who is stepping down as head after leading the Department of Microbiology for three years, including through the challenging pandemic years. Through his leadership, the Department of Microbiology saw continued enrollment growth, expanded grants, research, graduate education and experiential learning opportunities, and made shifts to adopt more holistic graduate admissions processes. He also led the department in pioneering a new online education option for BioHealth Sciences with Ecampus, expanding educational opportunities to those interested in healthcare.

As of September 1, Oregon State Pernot Distinguished Professor of Microbiology Rebecca Vega- Thurber began serving as interim department head in microbiology and will remain in service until Dunn’s arrival, January 1, 2024. Vega-Thurber is deeply dedicated to furthering the microbiology discipline and to ensuring the health and vitality of the department community. We are fortunate to have her expertise, passion and willingness to lead the Department of Microbiology through this leadership transition.

Interim Dean Bokil, Dean Simonich and the leadership of the Colleges of Science and Agricultural Sciences expressed sincere thanks to Professors Steve Giovannoni and Rebecca Vega-Thurber for leading the Department of Microbiology and helping the department to smoothly transition to new leadership. They also expressed gratitude to the microbiology head search advisory committee for their tremendous service to the colleges and for their collaboration in completing a successful head search for the department.