Thursday Seminar Series

From 5-6pm EST on the third or fourth Thursday of the month in the academic year, we’re bringing you a seminar full of microbial sciences and the awesome researchers who make it happen.

The monthly seminars are free and open to all. Faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, and microbe enthusiasts of any variety are encouraged to attend.

This fall's seminars will be HYBRID format. This means that Harvard affiliates have the option to attend either in-person or virtually, while those beyond Harvard are invited to join the virtual event.

In-person option for Harvard affiliates: Classroom Geo 375 (Peabody Museum). Enter the building at 24 Oxford St. and take the elevator to level 3. It will feel like you are in the museum. Head straight out of the elevator (through the climate change exhibit) to classroom 375. Masking will be required in accordance with current Harvard, Massachusetts, and CDC guidelines.

Virtual option: Anyone within or beyond the Harvard community can register to attend the Zoom webinar using the link associated with the individual event.

All talks are archived on the MSI YouTube channel for future viewing.

Fall 2021 Schedule


  • Thursday, Nov 18, 2021 - 5:00-6:00pm EST
    • Dr. Isaac Chiu, co-hosted by the Harvard Brain Sciences Initiative
    • Zoom webinar registration HERE
    • Title Bacterial interactions with neurons in pain and itch
    • Abstract The mammalian sensory nervous system densely innervates barrier tissues including the skin and gut that are exposed to microbes. Nociceptors are specialized neurons that mediate pain and itch. These unpleasant sensations are critical to protect organisms from danger. We find that nociceptors actively participate in host defense by detecting bacterial pathogens and signaling to the immune system. We will explore how bacteria interact with neurons to drive pain and itch, and how this crosstalk could regulate host defense.
    • Bio Isaac Chiu is Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology at Harvard Medical School. He received his undergraduate training in Biochemistry at Harvard College, working with Dr. Jack Strominger on MHC molecules in immune synapses. He then received a PhD in Immunology at Harvard Medical School under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Carroll, working on immune responses in neurodegeneration. He then trained in Dr. Tom Maniatis’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow on ALS. He did his second postdoctoral fellowship on the neurobiology of pain at Boston Children’s Hospital under Dr. Clifford Woolf. He started his lab at Harvard medical school in 2014. His research focuses on interactions between the nervous system, immune system, and microbes in host defense and inflammation. He has found that nociceptor neurons directly sense bacteria and immune mediators to produce pain. These neurons signal to the immune system via neuropeptides and neurotransmitters to mediate immunity in the skin, gut, and lungs. Recent work has shown that immune modulators also regulate itch during allergic inflammation. Defining neuroimmune crosstalk could lead to novel treatments for allergic diseases, infection, and pain. Dr. Chiu has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative Ben Barres Award, and Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award.



  • Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 - 5:00-6:00pm EST
    • Dr. William Hanage
    • Zoom webinar registration HERE
    • Title Covid-19: What we've learned about the pandemic and what we keep forgetting
    • Abstract The Covid-19 pandemic has been the most acute global infectious disease emergency in living memory. While it has upended societies and led to more than 600,000 deaths (and counting) in the United States alone, much of the potential impact could be anticipated by epidemiologists as early as February or March 2020. Dr Hanage will discuss how infectious disease epidemiology informs pandemic response from vaccines to handwashing, what we have learned about the virus and what it can do, as well as how we can best manage it. As we enter the second fall and winter of the pandemic in the northern hemisphere, we should learn the lessons the virus has taught, and not forget their cost.
    • Bio Dr. William Hanage is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the department of Epidemiology, and a faculty member in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. He employs a mix of theoretical and laboratory work to research the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease. After his PhD, he did post doctoral study at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, before being awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. Prior to joining the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, he was a Reader in the department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London. There he worked extensively developing multilocus sequence typing (MLST; and analysis (MLSA) for the study of bacterial pathogens and species, as well as means of analyzing data developed using this method. He is particularly interested in using an evolutionary framework such as methods derived from population genetics to inform epidemiology. In 2012 he received the Fleming Prize for research in Microbiology and was the recipient of a 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Microbiology.

To view past seminars, head over to the MSI YouTube channel.