Harry Mobley, Ph.D., stepping down as chair of Department of Microbiology & Immunology

July 26, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Accolades and Milestones

Harry L.T. Mobley, Ph.D., was recruited to U-M as the Frederick G. Novy Collegiate Professor & Chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology in 2004. He recently stepped down, effective July 1.

At that time, the department had 13 instructional track, primary faculty members. From Mobley’s arrival in July 2004 to the present, the department has more than doubled in size, adding 17 primary faculty members. The department now boasts a total of 28 primary faculty (two have retired and one has left the university to accept a position as chair of the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at Michigan State).

In 2004, the department had approximately $7 million in NIH grant dollars. Despite the national challenges facing faculty in obtaining extramural funding, in 2019, that number had risen to just over $18 million. Subsequently, in 2003, the department was ranked 39th in the nation (in terms of NIH funding), and is now ranked 8th!

Also since his arrival, the department has graduated more than 80 doctoral students, and these trainees have gone on to conduct postdoctoral fellowships at prestigious institutions, join faculty at research-intensive or education-intensive academic institutions, garner positions in federal agencies including the NIH and USDA, work in biotech and pharmaceutical companies or as scientific writers. The department has flourished under Mobley’s leadership, and as he steps down, he leaves the department thriving and in excellent shape with an esprit des corps that is tangible and noteworthy.

The department is extremely grateful for his tireless efforts in guiding, mentoring and facilitating the departmental faculty and guiding the successes of the department through his tenure as chair.

Mobley received his B.S. degree in biology from Emory University in 1975 and his Ph.D. degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Louisville in 1981. He conducted postdoctoral training in biological chemistry and then bacterial genetics in the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He served on the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine from 1984 until 2004 in the Division of Infectious Diseases (1984-1997) and then the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (1997-2004) where he led the graduate program.

During that time, he held a joint appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and trained graduate students in that program. In 2004, Mobley moved to U-M to chair the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and was installed as the inaugural Frederick G. Novy Collegiate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.

Mobley’s research interests focus on the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis and on the fundamental basic research that will lay the groundwork for future therapeutics and vaccines. His lab studies virulence mechanisms of uropathogenic Escherichia coli and Proteus mirabilis that cause uncomplicated and complicated urinary tract infections, respectively, and, in the recent past, Helicobacter pylori that causes gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. For E. coli and Proteus mirabilis, his lab is focused on identifying surface-exposed proteins that are both synthesized by the bacteria during a urinary tract infection and conserved among uropathogenic E. coli and Proteus strains. Using these conserved antigens, his lab is determining the efficacy of candidate proteins as components of a multivalent subunit vaccine to protect against urinary tract infection. 

Mobley is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member and past president of the Association of Medical School Microbiology & Immunology Chairs. He was the recipient of the inaugural U-M Postdoctoral Association Excellence in Mentorship Award in 2012. He is a member of the editorial review boards of Infection and Immunity and Microbiology Spectrum and has served as a study section member for the National Institutes of Health. Mobley was awarded and named a Distinguished University Professor in 2015. This is the university’s most prestigious professorship established to recognize senior faculty with exceptional scholarly achievements, national and international reputations for academic excellence, and superior records of teaching, mentoring and service.

Mobley has published 255 peer-reviewed articles which have been cited in literature more than 18,000 times as of June 2019, as well as 49 book chapters and five books. He has trained 29 Ph.D. students and 38 postdoctoral fellows, and has delivered 232 invited lectures in 21 countries. His lab continues to be highly productive, and he maintains an exceptionally well-funded research program despite his additional, significant duties as chair.