Graphic depicting bacteria under a magnifying glass.

Coming Soon to a Lab Near You

By Dirk Hoffman

Published October 18, 2023

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology has two new faculty members starting later this year who are eager to recruit new members to their research labs.


Multidisciplinary Approaches to Studying Gut Bacteria

Yolanda Yue Huang, PhD, will be joining the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology on Dec. 1.

She comes from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she worked in the group of Adam Arkin, PhD, as an Astellas Pharma awardee of the Life Sciences Research Foundation postdoctoral fellowship.

The laboratory is a U.S Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory managed by the University of California. There, she developed a novel high-throughput functional genomic approach to study gut bacteria.

Huang grew up in Canada and completed her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry at McGill University.

She then pursued a doctoral degree in chemical biology in the lab of Emily Balskus, PhD, at Harvard University. Her thesis work uncovered a new radical enzyme responsible for anaerobic amino acid metabolism.

“What makes this pathway interesting is that the amino acid is predominantly sourced from the host — diet and abundant host proteins. This highlights how microbes have evolved to metabolize abundant nutrients available in the gut environment,” Huang says.

One challenge in the microbiome field is that most microbes have not been characterized.

“The amount of sequencing data is increasing exponentially, but it is really difficult to translate this data into biological functions. I am excited to tackle this knowledge gap by leveraging multidisciplinary approaches in my group,”  Huang says.

Specifically, the Huang lab will combine high-throughput functional genomics, bioinformatics, biochemistry, and microbiology to rapidly connect genes to phenotypes for characterizations at the molecular level.

Another focus of the group will be to study how bacteriophages (bacterial viruses) influence bacterial functions and composition dynamics. Phages encode an even greater proportion of unknown genetic information and their role in the gut is not well understood.

“I am super excited to embark on the next chapter of my career and to be joining the vibrant scientific community at UB. I especially look forward to mentoring trainees at all levels and enabling them in their career paths,” Huang says.

For more information about the Huang lab, contact Huang at

Research Focused on Bacterial Pathogens

Ryan C. Hunter, PhD, is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, who will be joining the Jacobs School faculty on a full-time basis Nov. 23.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Guelph in Canada in 2001. He went on to pursue postbaccalaureate research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory prior to earning his doctoral degree in microbiology 2007 under the direction of Terry J. Beveridge, PhD, at the University of Guelph.

His graduate work focused on the microbial adaptation to their growth environments, their role in metal redox transformations, and their broader impacts on global elemental cycling. 

Subsequently, Hunter was awarded a Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation postdoctoral fellowship for studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was named a HHMI postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology in the lab of Dianne K. Newman, PhD.

Hunter and Newman used a multidisciplinary approach to define the in vivo chemical environment of the cystic fibrosis airways, and how bacterial pathogens adapt to and co-evolve with the host over time.

In 2012, Hunter received a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) and joined the faculty in the Microbiology department at the University of Minnesota in 2013.

Since the start of his independent career, Hunter’s research has focused on the in vivo physiology of bacterial pathogens and how they obtain nutrients from the host.

He has a particular interest in mucus-microbe interactions, and manipulating those interactions to shape our microbiota in many disease contexts (cystic fibrosis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease, and GI complications including colorectal cancer).

The Hunter lab opens its doors in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Jacobs School in November 2023.

For more information about the Hunter lab, contact Hunter at