Rust Belt:  An area of the north United States historically known for heavy industry and steel production.
Rust Belt Microbiome:  A cutting-edge conference named to commemorate the rise of Science and Medicine as emerging economic drivers in the Rust Belt region. The outstanding programs in microbiome or host-pathogen research highlight new forces in our region to improve human health, advance novel technology, and develop entrepreneurship. Our conference is designed to celebrate the past and the future of our thriving and vital area.

The goal of the Pittsburgh Rust Belt Microbiome (RBM) Conference is to bring together the microbiome, microbial evolution, and pathogenesis research communities from academic institutions and medical centers in the Rust Belt Region. 

Our program integrates basic and translational science researchers and physicians in clinical practice at all levels of their careers. Plenary session, keynote talks, poster sessions, lunches, and a banquet dinner will provide multiple opportunities for participants to present and discuss their work.

Hosted by

Scientific program


Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D.

Chairman, Vascular Cell Biology and
Atherosclerosis Lerner Research Institute,
Cleveland Clinic

“Gut Microbiota and Atherosclerosis”

Lauren Bakaletz, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Microbial Pathogenesis
Vice President, The Research Institute at Nationwide
Children’s Hospital, Ohio State University

“Otitis Media and Microbial Biofilms”

Theresa Alenghat, V.M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine,
Department of Pediatrics,
University of Cincinnati

“Gut Microbiota and Inflammatory Bowel Disease”


Microbiome in Heart and Lung Disorders

Carl Koch, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D. (Cleveland Clinic)

Gut Microbiome and Cholesterol Metabolism
Jonathan Mark Brown, Ph.D.
Cleveland Clinic

Gut Microbiome and Hypertension
Jennifer Pluznick, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University

Biofilms in Cystic Fibrosis
Jennifer Bomberger, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Pneumococcal Signaling
Luisa Hiller, Ph.D.
Carnegie Mellon University

The Lung Microbiome in Critical Illness
Georgios Kitsios, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Antimicrobial Delivery with Perfluorocarbon Emulsions
Keith Cook, Ph.D.
Carnegie Mellon University

Microbiome, Nutrition, and Human Performance

Investigating the Role of the Intestinal Microbiome in Deployment-Associated Diarrhea
Blake Stamps, Ph.D.
Air Force Research Laboratory

Military Stressors, Diet and the Gut Microbiome
J. Philip Karl, Ph.D.
US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine

Designing Synthetic Microbial Consortia with Defined Social Interactions
Ting Lu, Ph.D.
University of Illinois

Performance Enhancing Microbes in Elite Athletes
Theodore A Chavkin, BS (Ph.D. Student)
Harvard Medical School

Probiotics, An Alternative to Mitigate the Effects of Operational Stress
Kim Beals, Ph.D., RD, CSSD, LDN
University of Pittsburgh

Mother and Infant Microbial Cross-Talk

Dennis Simon, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Michael Horowitz, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Timothy Hand, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)

Human Milk and Gut Microbiome
Ardythe Morrow, Ph.D. 
University of Cincinnati

Maternal IgA, Microbiota and Necrotizing Enterocolitis
Kathyayini Gopalakrishna, MBBS (Ph.D. Student)
University of Pittsburgh

Enteroviral Infections and Gut Mucosal Immunity
Carolyn Coyne, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease

Stephen O’Keefe, M.D., M.Sc. (University of Pittsburgh)
Bryan McVerry, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Stacy Wendell, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)

Host Metabolites and Microbiota in the Gut
Margherita Cantorna, Ph.D.
Pennsylvania State University

Relationship Between the Intestinal Microbiome and Risk of Hospital-Acquired Infection
David B Haslam, M.D. 
University of Cincinnati

Dietary Fiber, Gut Microbiota, and Liver Cancer
Matam Vijay-Kumar, Ph.D.
University of Toledo

Gut Microbiome and Environmental Enteropathy
Timothy Hand, Ph.D. 
University of Pittsburgh

Gut Microbiome and Epigenetic Control of Immunity
Jennifer Franko, Ph.D. 
West Virginia University

Beyond the Bacteriome: Fungi and Viruses

Barbara Methé, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)
Alison Morris, M.D., M.S. (University of Pittsburgh)
Jennifer Bomberger, Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh)

Skin Mycobiome
Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University

Exploiting Mycobacteriophages for TB Treatment
Graham Hatfull, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Candida Biofilm Formation and Development of Infection
Aaron Mitchell, Ph.D.
Carnegie Mellon University

Gut Mycobiota and Inflammation
IIlyan Iliev, Ph.D.
Weill Cornell Medical College

Skin Mycobiome
Wook Kim, Ph.D.
Dusquene University


The 1st Pittsburgh Rust Belt Microbiome Conference


November 4 – 5, 2019

Carnegie Mellon University
Simmons Auditorium
Tepper Building
4765 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Please direct any questions to: Luisa Hiller at

Abstract submissions for poster and selected talks will open July 1, 2019.


There will be a RMB2019 Conference Special Issue hosted by the Journal of Bacteriology.


Michael Morowitz, M.D.

Michael Morowitz, M.D.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


Luisa Hiller, Ph.D.

Luisa Hiller, Ph.D.

Carnegie Mellon University


Alison Morris, M.D., M.S.

Alison Morris, M.D., M.S.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine