I obtained a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from UC Irvine, did a postdoctoral fellowship in Genetics at the University of Utah, then moved to a faculty position at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I was a Professor in the Microbiology Department for 18 years. Prior to moving to San Diego State University (SDSU), I also served as Director of the Illinois Biotechnology Center. I was Dean of the SDSU College of Sciences  for 11 years, then served as as Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation for 5 years. Since August 12, 2022 I am Emeritus Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation and Professor of Biology at SDSU. 

I am a former President of the American Society for Microbiology, one of the largest international scientific societies. I have served as an advisor for U.S. and international agencies on research, biosafety, biodefense, health, and graduate education, and have testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

Recent research in my lab has focused on how new infectious diseases arise, and the development of novel vaccines and antimicrobials. Together with a wonderful group of students and colleagues, I am co-author of over 100 scientific publications and co-author or editor of 12 books (with more in preparation). I have developed widely used educational websites, and hosted popular scientific podcasts and videos, organized courses and conferences around the world, and have received several teaching awards, Honorary Professorships, an Honorary PhD, and have been an elected Fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology since 1998.

In addition to academia, I have been closely involved in business. My brother and I started our first company when I was an undergraduate. I have been involved in starting a number of companies since then then. I have served an advisory role for numerous startups, and consulted with agricultural, pharmaceutical, and biotech companies. I am currently a member of two NSF-funded I-Corps teaching teams that provide training in Life Sciences entrepreneurship.