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 (UIUC) 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. In August, 2022 I transitioned to an emeritus position so I would have more time to focus on science. 

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, hosted popular scientific podcasts and videos, and organized courses and conferences around the world.

As an important corollary to laboratory research, teaching, and mentoring, I became engaged in promoting Scientific Ethics. Among other roles, I started the first course on Responsible Conduct of Research at UIUC, served as Chair of the American Society for Microbiology Ethics Committee, and am currently co-authoring a new edition of Macrina’s textbook on Scientific Integrity. 

I have received several teaching awards, Honorary Professorships, an Honorary PhD, and the 2023 Susan M. Baxter Award for Leadership in Research & Education in Biotechnology in the California State University. I have also been honored by election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

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 have been a member of two NSF-funded I-Corps teaching teams focused on Life Sciences entrepreneurship, and am currently engaged with the Desert & Pacific I-Corps Hub.