Microbiology

  • Timothy Yahr, Ph.D. - Carver College of Medicine Faculty Focus Interview

    What is your hometown?

    West Bend, Wisconsin

    When did you join the UI faculty?

    2001

    How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

    As a child I was always taking things apart in an effort to better understand how they work. Essentially, I am doing the same thing today except with biological systems.

    Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

    I was fortunate in having two professors spark my interest in Biology during my undergraduate education. Both were capable of turning the most mundane topics into exciting lectures. The level of energy they derived from simply talking about microbiology was infectious. This left me highly motivated to learn more and the rest is history.

    How or why did you choose the UI?

    Several factors made Iowa the perfect fit for me. Professionally, the Department of Microbiology has a long tradition of research excellence, strong leadership, and world class faculty. It is a privilege to be part of that continuing tradition. On a personal level, the strong educational system in Iowa, lack of crime, and Midwestern values make Iowa an ideal place to raise a family. The fact that my wife's and my families reside in Wisconsin was also a bonus.

    What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at Iowa provide?

    The strong infrastructure at Iowa including outstanding core facilities, support staff, abundant resources, and opportunities for research collaborations combine to provide an atmosphere conducive for success.

    Please describe your professional interests.

    Many Gram-negative pathogens possess specialized organelles, termed injectisomes, which function by injecting bacterial toxins into eukaryotic host cells. As a model system, we are studying the injectisome of the opportunist pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. P. aeruginosa is a common cause of nosocomial, UTI, and pneumonia infections. One of the goals of my work is to identify and characterize genes important for biosynthesis of the injectisome. We are also interested in understanding how the injectisome functions to inject the toxins. The long-term goal of these studies is the development of antimicrobial compounds or vaccines that target and inactivate the injectisome.

    What are some of your outside interests?

    Of course my family is the most important interest in my life. I have two sons, ages 6 and 9, who keep me busy most of the time. I enjoy playing poker, sports, hunting, reading, and woodworking.

    Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

    I think too many people place their careers above other priorities in life that deserve more attention. Going on this philosophy, I make it a point to maintain balance between my professional and personal lives, and work to keep them both fresh and interesting.

    What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

    When I started as a graduate student it was prohibitively expensive to use custom DNA primers. They are now cheap and used in so many different ways that they have become nearly indispensable. If a graduate student today was asked to design an experiment without using custom primers they would probably be at a loss for words.

    What one piece of advice you would give to today's graduate students?

    Keep your interests broad, remain diligent in reading the literature, and be tenacious at the research bench.

    What do you see as "the future" of medicine?

    Many antibiotics target conserved and essential cellular processes such as protein translation or DNA replication. As a result, most antibiotics are effective against a range of different bacterial species. I believe antibiotics of the future will be far more specific and designed to target specific phenotypic properties of a single bacterial species or even specific strains within a single species. The same can probably be said of many therapeutic treatments such as those for cancer.

    In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public?

    I maintain a regular schedule of off campus speaking engagements and am involved in a variety of activities with my church.

    University of Iowa
    Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine
    200 CMAB
    Iowa City, IA 52242-2600
    (319) 335-6707

    Copyright © 2008 University of Iowa. All rights reserved.