Steve Diggle Named Director of the Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection at Georgia Tech
The College of Sciences is pleased to announce the appointment of Steve Diggle as the director of the Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection (CMDI).
Diggle is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and the principal investigator for the Diggle Lab. He takes over the CMDI leadership position from Biological Sciences Professor Sam Brown, who has served as CMDI’s director since January 2020.
Founded in 2018, CMDI seeks to understand the chemical, physical, and biological connections that together underpin microbial dynamics. The Center’s science research includes a wide variety of disciplines — microbial ecology, microbiome dynamics, biogeochemistry, microbial biophysics, socio-microbiology, infection dynamics, host-pathogen interactions, marine and aquatic microbiology, microbial evolution, viral ecology, spatial imaging, and math/computational modeling.
“It’s an honor to be chosen for this,” Diggle said. “I think that what’s really exciting is that when I joined Georgia Tech in 2017, we were only just developing microbiology here. What’s happened since is that microbiology has taken on a much bigger profile at Georgia Tech. We’re now at the point where we are attracting really strong graduate students specifically to do microbiology, which is great. CMDI is more visible now, and I think that’s one reason graduate students are applying.”
“Steve Diggle is a perfect fit to lead CMDI forward,” Brown said. “Steve's research showcases impactful interdisciplinary research, combining molecular biology with ecology and evolution to understand what makes microbes tick, and how we can better control them. Steve has also shown a lasting commitment to mentorship and scientific service, and so I'm sure CMDI is in very good hands.”
Growth of the Center
Brown said the Center continues to add key personnel. In the past year, CMDI announced its inaugural Early Career Award Fellow in Ellinor Alseth, and its first grant writing specialist, Senior Research Scientist Carina Baskett. “Dr. Alseth is leading through her science, pulling multiple labs together to form new collaborations. Thanks to Dr. Baskett, we have substantially increased our rate of applications for both postdoctoral and postgraduate fellowships, and she has also led the pursuit of multi-principal investigator grants,” Brown added.
The CMDI has also boosted diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) resources that supported trainee and staff recruiting visits to underrepresented minority-serving conferences and local institutions, and provided additional stipends to help underrepresented minority recruits with relocation costs to Atlanta. The Center has also re-launched its showcase public event, MicrobeATL, a speaker series designed to integrate the microbiology research community across Atlanta that was paused during the pandemic.
CMDI targets models of human disease, but also complex microbial communities in a range of aquatic and terrestrial environments. This research is united by the beliefs that studying across systems is essential for identifying organizing principles, and fully understanding microbial ecology and evolution requires knowledge of social interactions over space and time.
Diggle added that the CMDI’s research priorities include climate change’s impact on the microbial world, and searching for new drugs that can tame antibiotic-resistant pathogens. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the great problems we're facing in the future,” he explained. That problem is why CMDI scientists like Julia Kubanek, professor in the School of Biological Sciences and Georgia Tech’s Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research, are scouring oceans for natural antibacterial alternatives.
Diggle also hopes to continue attracting the world’s top microbiology researchers to join the CMDI faculty while seeking out more external funding. “The ultimate goal is to make Georgia Tech one of the best places to come and do microbiology research in the U.S. Given what we’ve accomplished so far, I think that's a reasonable goal.”
Meet Steve Diggle
Diggle’s research interests focus on cooperation and communication in microbes, and how these are related to virulence, biofilms, and antimicrobial resistance. He has a longstanding interest in understanding how the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes disease, and is especially interested in how this organism evolves during chronic infections such as those found in cystic fibrosis patients and chronic wounds.
Diggle received his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Salford in the United Kingdom, and earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from the University of Nottingham in 2001. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Nottingham before obtaining a Royal Society University Fellowship (2006-2014). He joined the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech in 2017 and was named a full professor in 2022.
Diggle currently serves as a senior editor on the editorial board of the journal Microbiology. He has previously served on the editorial boards of FEMS Microbiology Letters, BMC Microbiology, Microbiology Open and Royal Society Open Science. He served as an elected member of the Microbiology Society Council from 2012-2016, and was also on their conference and policy committees. In 2020, Diggle received the Cullen-Peck Scholar Award, which recognizes research accomplishments led by College of Sciences faculty at the associate professor or advanced assistant professor level. Diggle was selected as an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer in 2021.
Learn more about Diggle’s research:
About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 44,000 students representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.
Renay San Miguel