A Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) support thematic, multidisciplinary centers that augment and strengthen institutional biomedical research capacity." COBREs are led by NIH-funded investigators with expertise in the areas that are integral to the grant's main research themes. 

The TGIR-COBRE aims to decrease the burden of global infectious diseases, particularly in low-income countries and has two major objectives. The first is to develop institutional strengths in global infectious disease research. The second is to develop the research careers of outstanding junior faculty in this field, under the mentorship of scientific advisors from three UVM colleges and five departments. A particular focus will be to train biomedical and quantitative data scientists so that these two traditionally distinct groups of investigators can collaborate and communicate effectively in the new era of big data. By leveraging existing strengths at the University of Vermont, the TGIR-COBRE will bridge the gap between the biologic and quantitative data fields of biomedical research to create a robust, well-organized academic home for the COBRE junior faculty and their mentors, as well as other faculty interested in global infectious diseases. 

TGIR Leadership 

Beth Kirkpatrick, MD, FASTMH, FIDSA


Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick

Director, Principal Investigator

  • Chairperson, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
  • Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease
  • Director, Vaccine Testing Center

Dr. Kirkpatrick obtained a B.S. in Biology and Political Science at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and her Doctor of Medicine from Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. Her Internship, Residency and Chief Residency in Internal Medicine were done at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. Dr. Kirkpatrick completed her Infectious Disease Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland in 1999. She founded the Vaccine Testing Center (VTC) in 2001 at UVM.

She has served as the Principal Investigator of the Translational Global Infectious Diseases Research (TGIR) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) since 2018, and leads its Administrative Core. In phase 2 of the TGIR-COBRE, Dr. Kirkpatrick is focused on growing the team’s critical mass of junior investigators; expanding the TGIR and VTC connections to scientists and institutional partners in low-and-middle-income countries; and multi-PI grants involving UVM and global partners. She is also interested in promoting the development of clinician-and physician-scientists, especially in global research.

Chris Huston, MD


Dr. Chris Huston

Co-Director, Administrative Core
Director of Mentorship

  • Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease

Dr. Huston received a B.A. in Physics from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and his Doctor of Medicine from Cornell University Medical College in New York, NY in 1994. He did his internship, residency and was chief resident in medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center (then called Medical Center Hospital of Vermont).  His infectious diseases clinical fellowship and a post-doctoral fellowship in microbiology/parasitology were done at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center. Dr. Huston joined the UVM Infectious Disease Faculty in 2003.

His lab studies drug development for the intestinal parasite Cryptosporidium that is a major cause of life-threatening diarrhea in young children for which current treatments are poor.

Jason H. T. Bates, PhD 


Dr. Jason Bates

Senior Advisor, MCP Core

  • Professor: Departments of Medicine, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Electrical & Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Bates obtained his B.Sc. with Honors in Physics at the University of Canterbury in 1977 and his Ph.D. in Medicine in 1981 from the University of Otago, both in New Zealand. He is currently Professor of Medicine, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, and Electrical & Biomedical Engineering at the University of Vermont. Dr. Bates is a Fellow of AIMBE, BMES, and ATS, and is a Senior Member of IEEE-EMBS.

After serving as the inaugural Director of the MCP Core, Dr. Bates is stepping aside to let TGIR graduate Dr. Laurent Hubert-Dufresne take over as Director during Phase II. Dr. Bates will stay in a supporting role to assist Dr. Hubert-Dufresne in running the Core while continuing his own research on the computational modeling of physiologic systems and disease processes.



 Kristen Pierce, MD 

Dr. Kristen Pierce

Director, HPR Core

  • Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease

Dr. Pierce began her studies with  B.A in Humanities from the University of Colorado. She obtained her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Vermont in 2003, where she also did her Residency in Internal Medicine and completed a Fellowship in Infectious Disease. Dr. Pierce began her work with the Vaccine Testing Center in 2008. 

Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, PhD

Laurent Hebert-Dufesne, PhD, Headshot

Director, MCP Core

  • Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences 

Dr. Hébert-Dufresne joined UVM in 2018. He received his BSc, MSc and PhD in physics from the Université Laval in Québec, and is a James S. McDonnell Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.

Prior to becoming MCP Core Director, Dr. Hébert-Dufresne was a TGIR Research Project Leader, completing a project entitled “Network epidemiology and the quantification of behavioral interventions.” This project focused on understanding how behavioral versus biologic factors determine the spread of Ebola. His expertise includes statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics with research in complexity, network theory, and nonlinear dynamics in epidemiology/sociology/ecology.

Benjamin Lee, MD


Portrait of Dr. Ben Lee

Director, TGIR Visiting Scholar Program

  • Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Lee obtained a BA from Amherst College and an MD from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He completed a Pediatric Residency at Johns Hopkins University and a Fellowship in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He came to UVM in 2015.

Prior to becoming the Director of the TGIR Visiting Scholar Program, Dr. Lee was a TGIR Research Project Leader who completed a project entitled “Development of B cell responses and serological immunity following oral rotavirus vaccination in infants.” This project characterized key correlates of protective immunity post-vaccination, focusing on children in settings in which oral rotavirus vaccination has poor efficacy. Under Dr. Lee, the TGIR Visiting Scholar Program has brought research collaborators to Vermont from the University of Pretoria, South Africa and Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, and plans to bring scholars from the Center for Infectious Disease Research Zambia in Fall 2023.

Sean A. Diehl, PhD


Dr. Sean Diehl

Director, TGIR Pilot Program

  • Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Dr. Diehl received his Ph.D. in 2003 from The University of Vermont. Dr. Diehl’s work in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics encompasses translational and basic research aimed at understanding the human immune response to viral infections, primarily to dengue virus, zika virus, norovirus, and SARS-CoV-2. His goal is to develop novel immune metrics and specific antibody tools that can be used to advance vaccine development and to understand host-pathogen interactions during viral infection or vaccination. 

Prior to becoming the Director of the TGIR Pilot Program, Dr. Diehl was a TGIR Research Project Leader who completed a project entitled “Next generation correlates of protection for dengue.” This project identified immune mechanisms engaged by vaccination or natural infection that correspond with protection from dengue virus.

TGIR Research Project Leaders

Jessica Crothers, MD


Jess Crothers, MD woman smiling

Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Project:Mucosal immunity to polio virus is modified by the gut microbiota, dependent upon cytotoxic cellular responses and can be enhanced via intradermal administration of a mucosally-adjuvanted inactivated polio vaccine (dmLT-IPV)"

Dr. Crothers is studying the role of T cells and the gut microbiota in reducing viral shedding following polio vaccination. She is currently leading multiple clinical vaccine trials in conjunction with the Vaccine Testing Center with the hope of developing safer, more effective polio vaccines to support global polio eradication efforts.

  Emily Bruce, PhD


Portrait of Dr. Emily Bruce

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Project: "Virological and immunological detection of SARS-CoV-2 exposure"

Dr. Bruce is pursuing improved COVID-19 diagnostic methodology, investigating the hypothesis that the presence of SARS-COV-2 replicative RNA species can be used to distinguish the presence of infectious virus from residual viral RNA. She pursues the morphological and genetic factors that control influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infectivity, studying aspects of the virus-host system.

Sarah Nowak, PhD


Dr. Sarah Nowak

Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Project: “Perception of risk, behavior, and COVID transmission dynamics"

Focusing on social media data from Brazil, Dr. Nowak will investigate the hypothesis that vaccine hesitancy within a community is strongly influenced by prevailing cultural scaffold beliefs. Utilizing agent-based modeling, she will explore the association between COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs and childhood vaccine hesitancy and investigate how receipt of anti-vaccine versus pro-vaccine information influences decision making.

Dev Majumdar, PhD 


Dr. Dev Majumdar

Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Project: "Evaluation of iDMV-1.0: A Single Dose Self-Amplifying Vaccine"

By working at the interface of RNA biology, vaccinology, and B cell immunology, Dr. Majumdar seeks to develop next generation mRNA vaccine platforms. This research's objective is to create a booster-free mRNA vaccine that delivers durable humoral and cellular immunity to foster greater vaccine uptake in global settings.

TGIR Faculty

Bruno Martorelli Di Genova, PhD


Dr. Bruno Martorelli Di Genova

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

Dr. Martorelli Di Genova received his PhD from Paulista Medical School (EPM), Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), studying cellular biology of Giardia lamblia. He focuses on eukaryotic pathogens, particularly toxoplasma gondii-host interactions, with the goal of developing efficacious therapies and furthering biological understanding. His current project aims to determine the metabolic needs and environmental triggers of the T. gondii chronic stage.

Jean-Gabriel Young, PhD

Dr. Jean-Gabriel Young

Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Dr. Young received his PhD from Université Laval in Québec. He focuses on the intersection of statistical inference, epidemiology, and complex systems. In addition to the TGIR Center, he is a faculty member of the Vermont Complex Systems Center. His current project studies network models of nosocomial C. Difficile spread.

David Bernstein, PhD

Dr. David Bernstein

Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Bernstein received his PhD from Boston University. His research combines bioinformatics, computational modeling, and machine learning to gain quantitative understanding of microbial ecosystems. His current project relates to general improvement of genome-scale metabolic model accuracy through experimental validation, and the development of dynamic computational models of the infant gut microbe.

John Openshaw, MD

Dr. John Openshaw

Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease

Dr. Openshaw received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His research touches on infectious disease, ecology, zoonotic pathogens, and climate change. He is also interested in the role of technology and media in healthcare. His current project focuses on field detection of zoonotic spillover pathogens of pandemic potential.

TGIR Pilot Award Faculty

Chris Brady, MD

Chris Brady

Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology

Project: "Enhanced smartphone imaging for artificial intelligence applications in follicular trachoma"



Delia Horn, MD

Portrait of Dr. Delia Horn

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

Project: "Quantifying anti-microbial resistance and antibiotic use in an Ethiopian neonatal intensive care unit"

Kelsey Gleason, ScD

Dr. Kelsey Gleason

Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine

Project: "Understanding the impacts of environmental factors on diarrheal disease int he world's largest refugee camp"

The central hypothesis of this work is that major climate events and reduction in local forest cover increase the incidence of diarrheal disease in complex humanitarian crises. The overall objective of this study is to evaluate the role of the natural environment on the incidence of diarrheal disease in the world’s largest refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Specifically, we examine the impact of rainfall, temperature, and changes in forest cover on monthly diarrheal surveillance data.