These are exciting as well as challenging times in microbiology. Despite our wealth of knowledge, much remains to be learned about the amazing versatility of the microbes. New problems facing us today are peculiar to our millennium, and demand a new understanding of the potential of these vital organisms.
Microbes live virtually everywhere life is possible, even where life is unimaginable. They generate about half the oxygen in the atmosphere, are the foundation of the food web, and probably constitute the largest component of the earth's biomass. The whole ecosystem depends on their activities, and they influence human society in countless ways.
We are faced today with depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation, emergence of new pathogens, resistance to existing antimicrobial agents and biowarfare. The availability of whole genome DNA sequence information has generated a revolution in the biological sciences. Microbial genome information is not only poised to change our views of evolutionary history and its mechanisms, it is also revealing new areas for drug design, mechanisms for degradation of pollutants, and on the flip side, blueprints for the development of new microbial pathogens.
Understanding the microbes and harnessing their power is perhaps our best chance to protect our biosphere and enhance our quality of life. A central component of this effort will have to be the training of scientists in the field of microbiology and microbial pathogenesis. The Microbiology Graduate Program allows students to specialize in various areas including bacteriology, virology, fungal biology, microbial genetics and evolution, microbial pathogenesis, as well as cell biology and immunology.