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The Microbial Friends & Foes Research Experience for Undergraduates program provides training in the concepts and experimental approaches central to understanding microbial interactions with eukaryotic hosts. Students work with faculty mentors in the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease (CIHMID). A common theme among research programs in CIHMID is investigation of interspecific interactions, both mutualistic and antagonistic.

Students learn about broad diversity of microbe-eukaryote interactions through conducting independent research projects, participation in weekly research group meetings, seminars presented by CIHMID faculty, Microbial Friends & Foes Synthesis Panels, and the CIHMID Summer Symposium. Emphasis is placed on appreciation of scientific method and developing effective strategies for conducting research as well as on the synthesis of concepts important to interspecific interactions across diverse systems.

This educational experience is an excellent professional development preparation for undergraduate students wishing to apply to graduate school and advance their careers in science. Individual student projects are designed so that they have the potential to be published as parts of larger projects, in which case program participants are included as coauthors.

Application deadline is February 21, 2019.

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Download a Microbial Friends & Foes flier.


Each student works with a faculty mentor on an independent project relevant to a specific host-microbe study system. Depending on the properties and questions concerning their focal systems, students learn and use tools of molecular biology, bioinformatics, evolution, ecology, population genetics, or applied systems management. Participation in weekly research group meetings immerses students in research conducted by their host laboratories.


Individual student projects are integrated into the unifying conceptual framework through a series of seminars presented by CIHMID faculty mentors. To foster analytical and synthetic skills of student participants, the program also involves a series of student group activities (Microbial Friends & Foes Synthesis Panels) in which students, with the help of their mentors, identify patterns shared by their own study systems and systems explored by other participants. The program culminates with the Microbial Friends & Foes Symposium at which students share their findings with the CIHMID research community. As a consequence, in addition to their own projects, each student is exposed to a broad range of interspecific interactions discussed at different levels of biological organization and integrated into a common conceptual framework.

Professional Development

Workshops in electronic database literacy, science citation software, research ethics, science communication, planning for graduate study, which includes attention to personal statements and resumes, are offered to the Microbial Friends & Foes program participants.

Microbial Friends & Foes Publications

Lastovetsky O.A., E. Ahn, S.J. Mondo, K.H. Toomer, A. Zhang, L.M. Johnson & T.E. Pawlowska. 2018. Distribution and population structure of endobacteria in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi at North Atlantic dunes. The ISME Journal 10.1038/s41467-017-02052-8. Abstract
Mondo, S.J., O.A. Lastovetsky, M.L. Gaspar, N.H. Schwardt, C.C. Barber, R. Riley, H. Sun, I.V. Grigoriev, and T.E. Pawlowska. 2017. Bacterial endosymbionts influence host sexuality and reveal reproductive genes of early divergent fungi. Nature Communications 8: 1843, 10.1038/s41467-017-02052-8. Abstract
Vargas-Asencio, J., K. Wojciechowska, M. Baskerville, A. L. Gomez, K. L. Perry, and J. R. Thompson. 2017. The complete nucleotide sequence and genomic characterization of grapevine asteroid mosaic associated virus. Virus Research 227:82-87.

The Microbial Friends & Foes REU program is funded by the NSF grant DBI-1852141.