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Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) in Infectious Disease

Assistant professors associated with the new Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Infectious Disease, Nisha Duggal and James Weger-Lucarelli, are developing a SARS-COV-2 reverse genetics system to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Ray Meese for Virginia Tech.

Assistant professors associated with the new Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Infectious Disease, Nisha Duggal and James Weger-Lucarelli, are developing a SARS-COV-2 reverse genetics system to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Ray Meese for Virginia Tech.
Assistant professors associated with the new Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Infectious Disease, Nisha Duggal and James Weger-Lucarelli, are developing a SARS-COV-2 reverse genetics system to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Ray Meese for Virginia Tech.

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP) in Infectious Disease (ID), in collaboration with academic departments and programs, trains graduate students with a broad scientific perspective in infectious disease. The program provides:

  • a cohesive, yet diverse learning environment valuing multiple viewpoints
  • cutting edge transdisciplinary research
  • rich educational experiences with infectious disease specific coursework and seminars
  • professional development opportunities
  • realization of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (that we may serve) in the form of service to society through focus on real-world infectious disease problems.

Funded by the six participating colleges and other Virginia Tech entities, this program is one of several IGEPs. These programs address a variety of complex societal issues requiring interdisciplinary teams of scholars. 

Click below for more information on:
Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs (IGEPs).


Leadership | Co-directors

Kevin Edgar
Professor of Biomaterials and Bioprocessing
(540) 231-0674
Ann Stevens
Professor of Biological Sciences
(540) 231-9378

Steering Committee

Affiliated Faculty

At the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens is an interdisciplinary and growing network of more than 100 Virginia Tech faculty from seven of Virginia Tech’s Colleges:

  • College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences
  • College of Natural Resources & Environment
  • College of Science
  • Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Antimicrobial Countermeasures (vaccine and drug)

Group leaders:
Paul Carlier
Mike Zhang


Ecology and Epidemiology

Group leaders:
Kathleen Alexander
Dana Hawley


Host-Pathogen Interactions

Group leaders:
Clayton Caswell
Stephen Melville


Zoonotic Diseases

Group leaders:
John Maurer
Patrick Pithua

Public Health and Clinical Microbiology

Group leaders:
Andrea Bertke
Thomas Kerkering


Computational Biology and Disease Modeling

Group leaders:
Stanca Ciupe
Leah Johnson


Environmental Microbiology

Group leaders:
Leigh-Anne Krometis
Amy Pruden


Human Dimension of Infectious Diseases

Group leaders:
Rebecca Hester



Group leaders:
Coy Allen
Lijuan Yuan


Vector Biology and Vector-borne Diseases

Group leaders:
Michael Klemba
Igor Sharakhov
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Complete the graduate school application for the ID IGEP program and indicate your top choices for faculty mentors: CeZAP Faculty List

To apply click here.
The link above will take you to the Virginia Tech Graduate School application, which you will need to fill out. When you come to the place where you are asked to indicate “Program of Study”, please select “Infectious Disease IGEP” from the drop-down list.

Graduate School IGEP Booklet

Information about ID IGEP program-specific requirements:

  • A holistic approach will be used to review applicants
  • 3.0 GPA or higher required
  • GRE not required, but TOEFL required for non-native English-speaking applicants
  • Letters of recommendation required (those from academic or research mentors are particularly helpful)
  • Applicants should indicate in their personal statement their top choice(s) of research mentors and the college affiliation of those individuals
  • Applicants are encouraged to reach out directly to potential faculty mentors via Email or phone

This is not a degree-granting program. Degrees are awarded through the department of the research mentor.

Application review will begin December 1, annually.

Students will be guaranteed funding through their first academic year from their home college. Funding thereafter may come from external grants to their advisor, teaching assistantships, student-initiated grant proposals, or other funding sources, but the home college and advisor will have committed to providing continuing funding beyond the first academic year, contingent on satisfactory student progress.

Students may enter the program in two ways:

1. Complete three rotations during their first semester on campus in three different laboratories; all three laboratories must be within the single college that is funding the student. Students should indicate the college of greatest interest, based on the student’s top laboratory interest(s).

2. Select a primary laboratory to join directly, but with the opportunity to complete two complementary interdisciplinary training periods in two other laboratories within CEZAP as determined through discussions with the major advisor during the first semester.

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Enrollment in a first-semester infectious disease overview course, “Topics in Infectious Disease” will be required.

Enrollment and full participation in the CeZAP Distinguished Speakers Seminar Series will be required.

Once students join a research group under a specific PI, they become affiliated with the department and college of the PI. The student will therefore take additional courses required by their home college/department/lab and will have all of the same rights and responsibilities as other students in their home department.

Research Symposium

Course (details forthcoming)


stock photo of test tubes with a dropper dropping a clear liquid into test tube

The first ID IGP cohort recently completed the first of three research rotations and presented their research projects to the group.

Mychala Snead  
"Creating a Bacillus Transposon Library"

Jason Pough
"Using Spent Grains to Feed Trough and Feeding Shrimp Vibrio parahaemolyticus"

Marcel Shams Eddin
"Characterization of Salmonella genes involved in Chi (X) phage infection"

Poonam Tajanpure
"Focus on the impacts of climate change on hydrology, water resources and public health"

Morgen VanderGiessen
"Developing capsid-importin alpha inhibitors for the treatment of VEEV infection"

Abdullahi Jamiu
"Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Drug Discovery"

Caitlin Armstrong
"ID IGEP Rotation #1 - Rotating through Dr Liwu Li's Lab"

Images of the 7 members of the ID IGEP cohort in front of a projector screen presenting on their research rotation


Click here for ID IGEP CeZAP News


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Meet the first ID IGEP Cohorts

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Marcel Shams Eddin

Marcel Shams Eddin

"It was always my interest during my undergraduate and graduate studies to learn more about infectious diseases and search deeply about the causative agents of those diseases. I enjoy studying the field I am most passionate about and will strive to discover new treatments, vaccines, and diagnostic strategies for various resistant infectious pathogens.

I am from Lebanon. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences, and a Master of Science degree in Microbiology and Immunology focusing on Virology, from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon

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Abdullahi Jamiu

Abdullahi Jamiu                                                                                                                                

"I am very passionate about infectious disease and drug discovery. This intense passion stems from the need to better understand the mechanisms through which notorious pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the causal agent of COVID-19, cause infection. My interest in drug discovery is inspired by the urgent need to develop novel, effective therapeutic options against emerging and re-emerging infections."

Mr Abdullahi Temitope Jamiu is a citizen of Nigeria. He is very fascinated by the microbial world. As such, he obtained his Bachelor's degree in Microbiology from Al-Hikmah University, Nigeria. He has also recently completed his Master's degree in Microbiology at the University of the Free State, South Africa. He will start a PhD degree in Infectious Disease at Virginia Tech this fall.

Mychala Snead

Mychala Snead

"My interest in infectious diseases stems from my love of microbiology and passion for understanding host/vector interactions. I am interested in gaining more knowledge on the various microbial communities that cause disease within the human population."

Mychala Snead is from Dover, DE. She received a BS in Biology from Stevenson University In Owings Mills, MD. She went on to complete a Masters in Clinical Microbiology from George Washington University. Mychala’s hobbies include cooking, walking, and taking care of her pets

Headshot of Caitlin with a horse
Caitlin Armstrong

Caitlin Armstrong

Caitlin is excited to further develop her love of research and apply her molecular biology background in the laboratories of Dr. Luo and Dr. Li as a Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences PhD student.

Caitlin Armstrong holds a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University, where she graduated cum laude with distinction in research for her honors thesis in equine genetics. While at Cornell, she worked in three different research laboratories on projects ranging from humpback whale communication and conservation to equine genetics. After graduation, she gained several years of industry experience in molecular diagnostics while also co-managing an equine boarding barn at Callithea Farm. From 2014-2018, she gained additional research experience in the Laminitis Laboratory at PennVet - New Bolton Center. Most recently, she served as the Equine Biobank Manager in the Equine Pharmacology Laboratory, also at New Bolton Center

Poonam Tajanpure

Poonam Tajanpure

"My research is centered on advanced causal machine learning, data mining, and satellite image applications to better understand environmental and public health issues. I am particularly interested in learning more about the effects of climate change on environmental health issues such as waterborne disease, population health, and public policy. As part of my research, I would like to investigate the effects of human-induced activities on increasing demand, climatic change and variability, land-cover, and land-use change. .My interdisciplinary approach to engineering solutions for economic development and public health issues is built on long-term mechanisms that identify potential threats and solutions to evaluate and model relationships between physical and institutional infrastructure, climate change, and public health goals."

Prior to beginning the doctoral program at VT, I earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering as well as a master's degree in development studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and a master's degree in population studies from the International Institute for Population Science in Mumbai (India).

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Jason Pough

Jason D'wayne Pough II

"My interest in the IDGEP program stems from a mixture of microbiology and immunology with a lifelong enthusiasm of zoology and animal sciences. I plan to spend my time at Virginia Tech under this program in an attempt to combine my interest, so I may find an area of study that I truly enjoy an can make a career and future out of."

My name is Jason D'wayne Pough II and I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. After later moving to Richmond, Virginia, I attended Hampden-Sydney College at Farmville, in 2015 and graduated with a B.S. in Biology in 2019. During my time at Hampden-Sydney I was recruited by my biology department to pursue a research topic of my choosing. I researched the Tardigrade gene DSUP which allows the organisms to survive high levels of radiation. My research focused on using comet assay's to experiment on how effective the gene prevented radiation damage to plasmids. Along with my peers, I attended an ASBMB conference, in Orlando, Florida in 2019, and presented my work to other professors and students from across the country.

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Morgen VanderGiessen

Morgen VanderGiessen

Morgen aspires to pursue graduate research aimed at understanding the chemical interactions between disease-vectors, humans, and their environments. Her long-term career goals are to continue research in the field of zoonotic disease and human disease-vector interactions. More specifically, she aims to find a career exploring the vast number of ecological, genetic, and physical factors that contribute to host-pathogen interactions.

Morgen obtained a Master's degree in Biochemistry at Virginia Tech in 2021 with focus on the effects of habitat and plant chemical ecology on mosquito behavior. Under the supervision of both Dr. Clement Vinauger and Dr. Chloe Lahondere from the Department of Biochemistry, she performed field mosquito trapping and laboratory chemical analysis to better understand mosquito survival and biting behaviors. Morgen obtained her Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and a Minor in Chemistry and Medicine in Society in 2019 also at Virginia Tech. During her undergraduate studies, she participated in undergraduate research investigating olfactory rhythms in mosquitoes in the Vinauger lab, and served as a laboratory technician caring for both mosquitoes in the Vinauger and Lahondere Labs as well as a mouse care technician in the Phillips laboratory. Before moving to Blacksburg, Virginia to attend Virginia Tech, Morgen grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Throughout these experiences, she developed a strong interest in organic chemistry and vector-borne disease research in which she plans to pursue a doctoral degree

Fralin Life Sciences Institute
Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC)
Integrated Life Science Building (ILSB)
1981 Kraft Dr, Room 2036
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Kevin Edgar:
Office Phone: (540)-231-0674

Ann Stevens:
Office Phone: (540)-231-9378
Lab Phone: (540)-231-2342
FAX: (540)-231-9307