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Keene to lead microbiology department

The new head of microbiology at the University is well acquainted with the department.

Jack Keene, who has been acting chair of the department of microbiology since it was created 18 months ago, was named permanent chair by the executive committee of the Board of Trustees Friday.

Keene becomes the first permanent head of the department, which was created when the department of microbiology and immunology split in 1992.

The Medical Center conducted a national search, and Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. Ralph Snyderman interviewed five external candidates before settling on Keene.

"He is a superb scientist and did an excellent job as acting chair," Snyderman said.

For the future, Keene said he hopes to give the department a greater sense of focus by recruiting professors who study diseases caused by microbes or microbial pathogenesis.

"We have a diverse department . . . and we're becoming more focused," Keene said.

Much of the diverse research currently performed by the microbiology are addressed by other departments at the University such as pharmacology and immunology.

By placing a stronger emphasis on microbial pathogenesis, scientists could help explain several problems currently facing doctors, including the increasing resistance of many bacteria to antibiotic treatments and the resurgence of ailments such as tuberculosis, Keene said.

The department should add about five tenure-track professors during the next several years, Keene said, adding to the approximately 10 tenure-track and five full professors already in the department.

Keene came to the University in 1979 after receiving his doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of Washington at Seattle.

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