About Us

The Department of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology (METX) focuses on the human and environmental health impacts of chemicals and pathogens. This interdisciplinary focus has led to new insights into how microbes cause disease and affect the bioavailability of toxicants in the environment, as well as how organisms respond to these harmful agents. While our research is driven by biological questions, it has a significant translational component and has led to the identification of novel therapeutic targets, approaches for bioremediation, and markers of toxicant exposure. In addition, our department provides an exciting and effective training environment for graduate and undergraduate research and teaching. The METX faculty have been very successful in developing independent and interdisciplinary research programs, publishing in top-rated peer-reviewed journals, and advancing through the professoriate ranks. Moreover our graduate training prepares students to become leaders in various fields,  following career paths in academia, teaching, industry, and government.

Contact & visitor information
Office location
Physical Sciences Building, Room 430

Office Email: metxadmn@ucsc.edu
Phone: (831) 459-4719

Mailing address
Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

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Degree programs
The Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology Department at UCSC offers undergraduate and graduate courses in microbiology and environmental toxicology, and grants Ph.D. and M.S., and B.S. degrees. The curriculum provides a strong foundation in multiple areas of microbiology, toxicology, and pharmacology to achieve the breadth and depth of perspective required for this interdisciplinary science.

Explore Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology News

The latest high-impact science in Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology

A side-view rendering of the H Pylori flagellar motor shows the PilN, PilO and PilM proteins, which are usually associated with pili rather than flagell. (Image from the Liu Lab at Yale University)

Scientists find unexpected proteins in bacteria motors

A team of scientists, co-led by Karen Ottemann, a professor of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology, recently found three unexpected proteins while studying the motors that power the flagella of a species called Helicobacter pylori. The proteins, which are normally found in another type of appendage on a separate group of bacteria, seem to exert control over the motion of the flagella. These proteins, known as PilN, PilO, and PilM, had never been found associated with a flagella before.

Don Smith, distinguished professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology, receives 2023 Outstanding Faculty Award for his dedication to advancing knowledge in his field and his commitment to the well-being of the university. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Environmental toxicologist Don Smith receives Outstanding Faculty Award

Don Smith, distinguished professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology, has been awarded the 2022-2023 Outstanding Faculty Award from the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences. The annual award is the division’s highest honor for faculty achievement, recognizing combined excellence in research, teaching, and service.

UCSC iGEM 2023 team.

UCSC iGEM 2023 addressing harmful algal blooms through synthetic biology


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