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Microbiology Fellowship Program

A two-year training program is offered to PhDs and MDs interested in clinical microbiology. This is a postgraduate residency program in medical and public health laboratory microbiology accredited by the Committee on Postgraduate Educational Programs (CPEP) of the American Academy of Microbiology. The program is designed to develop knowledge and skill in diagnostic microbiology, clinical consultation related to microbiology and infectious diseases, and clinical laboratory management. A strong emphasis is also placed on laboratory research, particularly on the development of new diagnostic tests and on collaborative projects performed in conjunction with clinical protocols ongoing at the NIH. Individuals appropriate for the program are:

  • those interested in gaining knowledge and experience to help them direct clinical microbiology laboratories
  • individuals with a microbiology research background who are interested in applying modern research technology to enhance diagnostic laboratory procedures

The Microbiology Service provides comprehensive diagnostic services to the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, which is a 200-patient bed referral hospital with a large outpatient service. It is one of five services of the Department of Laboratory Medicine (DLM), the others being Clinical Chemistry, Hematology, Immunology, and Phlebotomy. The patients admitted here are all participating in NIH clinical protocols, which cover a wide variety of diseases, including cancer, HIV disease, autoimmune diseases, cystic fibrosis, aplastic anemia and others. The investigational programs involve state-of-the-art medicine, such as gene therapy, bone marrow transplantation, and immunomodulation therapy, to name a few. Because of the nature of the patients and the clinical trials they are a part of, the Microbiology Service provides extensive diagnostic testing to determine infectious etiologies.

The Training Program

Two positions are available; for each we request a minimum commitment of two years. The trainee may request an additional year, but this requires approval of the professional staff. The fellowship program covers the following subspecialty areas of microbiology:

  • Aerobic bacteriology
  • Anaerobic bacteriology
  • Antibiotic susceptibility testing
  • Mycology
  • Mycobacteriology
  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Molecular diagnostics

During the first year in the program, the fellow will spend designated lengths of time in each of the subspecialty sections. The expectation is that the fellow will become knowledgeable as to the technical and theoretical aspects of the tests used in each section, the clinical as well as microbiological importance of the organisms, and the types of problems encountered in the section. After a brief one month orientation in the laboratory, the fellow assumes on-call responsibilities to address problems or special requests that may arise on weekends and evenings. The individual on call also organizes and presents daily laboratory rounds to the infectious-disease consultants. On-call responsibilities are shared with the rest of the Senior Staff of the Service, and are scheduled in blocks of one week at a time. Depending on the number of staff on the rotation schedule, the fellow is generally on-call once every fifth or sixth week.

During the latter part of the first year and into the second year, the fellow returns to each of the subspecialty sections for a longer period of time. During this second rotation, the fellow is given the responsibility of overseeing the section, and becomes more deeply involved with the method development for the section, trouble shooting and problem solving, serving as the technical and clinical consultant for the technologists and the supervisor of the section, and managing personnel-related issues. The fellow meets on a weekly basis with the rest of the Senior Staff to discuss and decide on laboratory policies, problems, personnel decisions and management needs.

Involvement in research projects is required after completion of the initial rotations through the sections. Appropriate types of research include development of new diagnostic tests, review and analysis of laboratory data to help determine laboratory policies, and collaboration on clinical studies that have a microbiologic component. Fellows present their research at national meetings whenever possible, in addition to submitting their material for publication.

Professional Staff

Karen M. Frank, MD, PhD, D(ABMM), Chief of Microbiology Service
Dr. Frank is a board-certified Clinical Pathologist who joined the NIH in 2012. Dr. Frank has served as a director of clinical microbiology laboratories since 2007. She previously served an Associate Director of a Pathology Residency Program for five years. Dr. Frank serves on the Resident In-Service Exam Committee of the American Society of Clinical Pathology, has served on the executive council of the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists, and has been the Director of an ACGME-accredited Clinical Microbiology Fellowship. She has served as a consultant for medical student education and clinical algorithms for bacterial antibiotic resistance testing in the laboratories of two hospitals in China as part of the Wuhan Medical Education Reform Project. She is involved in both translational and basic science projects. Translational projects include an evaluation of MALDI-TOF identification of microorganisms and molecular methods for viral detection in transplant patients. The basic science project involves the investigation of the mechanism of lung injury due to Staphylococcus aureus alpha-hemolysin using a murine model of pneumonia.

Adrian M. Zelazny, PhD, D(ABMM), Director, Mycology and Mycobacteriology
A previous Fellow in the NIH CPEP Postdoctoral Training Program, Dr. Zelazny joined the Microbiology Service as a Staff Scientist in 2008. His primary clinical interest is in the development of novel proteomic and genomic-based diagnostic assays. He leads the Mycology/Mycobacteriology section of the Service, which has pioneered the use of MALDI TOF mass spectrometry for the identification of mycobacteria and fungi. His basic research interests include studies of the pathogenic properties of bacteria and fungi, host-pathogen interactions and the evolution of bacteria in outbreaks and in persistent infections. He was instrumental in the discovery and description of an emerging pathogenic bacterium, Granulibacter bethesdensis.

John P. Dekker, MD, PhD, FCAP, Director, Genomics Section
Chief, Bacterial Pathogenesis and Antimicrobial Resistance Unit, Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology, NIAID
Dr. Dekker received his MD from Harvard Medical School and PhD from Harvard University through the NIH Medical Scientist Training Program. He completed pathology residency and fellowship training in medical microbiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and is board-certified in clinical pathology and medical microbiology through the American Board of Pathology. Dr. Dekker is currently an Investigator and Lasker Scholar in the NIAID Intramural Research Program, where he leads the Bacterial Pathogenesis and Antimicrobial Resistance Unit. In addition, he oversees the Genomics Section within the Microbiology Service in the NIH Clinical Center Department of Laboratory Medicine, which focuses on development of next-generation sequencing-based approaches with applications in epidemiology and infectious diseases.  His research interests are in the area of microbial genomics, pathogen evolution, and mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance.

Anna F. Lau, PhD, D(ABMM), Co-Director, Bacteriology, Parasitology, Molecular Epidemiology
Dr. Lau received her PhD from the University of Sydney (Australia). She completed her CPEP Clinical Microbiology Fellowship at the NIH Clinical Center and is a recent diplomat of the American Board of Medical Microbiology. Dr. Lau joined the NIH Microbiology faculty in 2013, where she co-directs the Bacteriology, Specimen Processing, Parasitology, and Molecular Epidemiology sections. Dr Lau's translational research interests involve the development of new rapid diagnostic platforms for microbial identification and the detection of resistance mechanisms using molecular-based techniques and mass spectrometry. In 2014, Dr. Lau was recognized with the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 award in Science and Healthcare for her development of a comprehensive database for the rapid, simple, and accurate identification of filamentous fungi by MALDI-TOF MS. Her method and database has been shared with numerous clinical laboratories worldwide.

Gary A. Fahle, MT, SM, Director Molecular Diagnostics Section
Gary has extensive expertise in the development, verification, and validation of molecular diagnostic test for agents of infectious diseases in patient specimens. As the director of the Molecular Diagnostics Section he works to ensure that the Microbiology Service is offering appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic tests to support NIH patients and clinical protocols.

Eligibility Requirements

  • PhD, DSc, MD, or an equivalent degree acceptable to the professional staff.
  • Not more than 1-2 years postdoctoral or residency experience.
  • IRTA candidates must have U.S. citizenship or eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship within four years of beginning the program. A Fogarty fellowship is available for other candidates.

How to Apply

Program Director

Dr. Adrian M. Zelazny
Microbiology Service,
Department of Laboratory Medicine
Clinical Center
National Institutes of Health
Building 10, Room 2C-385
10 Center Dr. MSC 1508
Bethesda, MD 20892-1508


Interviews and letters of recommendation are requested only for those applicants we think may be best suited for the program. We urge any candidate contacted for an interview to arrange one in person if possible, although telephone interviews can be substituted for selection for the program. The NIH cannot offer any travel compensation for an interview.

NIH is an equal opportunity-affirmative action employer.

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This page last updated on 02/27/2019

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