Steven W. Wilhelm -  Professor OF Microbiology 


Office: 865-974-0665    Labs: 865-974-0682  or  865-974-4014



Steven W. Wilhelm, Ph.D.
Benevolent Dictator

Chaos control, wine steward,   cat herding and middle relief





Gary LeCleir, Ph.D.,   Research Assistant Professor

Gary came to Knoxville in 2006 after completing his PhD at the University of Georgia.  His primary area of focus currently is the sequencing and annotation of giant viruses found in the ocean (leviathans).  Currently he is working with researchers at Bigelow and Rutgers to sequence and annotate the genome of the virus that infects Aureococcus anophagefferens, as well as with colleagues in the department as part of our new cross-department microbiome efforts.   Gary is also the in house expert on DNA sequencing and analysis, all things Boston Red Sox, and manages the oUTsiders softball team.





   Jackson Gainer, B.Sc.,  Doctoral Candidate 

Jackson started in our graduate program in January of 2012. Prior to this he worked in the lab of Dr Erik Zinser as a research associate.   For his doctoral work, Jackson will be working between the Wilhelm and Zinser labs and addressing questions on the quantitative distribution of viruses infecting Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus. 



  Samantha Rose, B.Sc., Doctoral Candidate


Sam came to UT from Drury in the fall 2013.  Her research is currently examining how DNA modifications in viruses shape their resilience in nature.  Her work will see her focus on phage, but also use some Phycodnaviruses as model systems.





  Joshua Stough, B.Sc., Doctoral Candidate


Joshua joined the lab in late 2013  - he is currently working with our microbiome team as we try to understand how changes in the microbiome of genetically identical mice.  He is also working with our environmental metatranscriptomics group to understand how viruses shape microbial community structure and function.




Robbie Martin, B.Sc.,      Doctoral Candidate 


Robbie joined the lab in late 2012 and is also going to be working on our microcystin biogestors project.  As a starting point he is re-evaluating or process of isolating individual bacteria that degrade microcystin, and will move forward with determining how environmental conditions and co-culture influence toxin degradation.





Lauren Krausfeldt, B.Sc.,        Doctoral Candidate 


Lauren joined the lab in late 2012 and is also going to be working on our microcystin biogestors project.  Specific early goals will be to determine the rates at which the toxin is degraded by different heterotrophic microbes in our collection.



Eric Gann, B.Sc.,   Doctoral Candidate 

After spending the summer of 2014 in Knoxville as a NSF-funded REU student, Eric has returned to start working on methyltransferase genes in giant viruses.  He will be working with the Aureococcus anophagefferens  system to try and understand why viruses require so many genes in this group. Eric is also leading our efforts to make Aureococcus genetically tractable.



Maddie Denney, M.Sc.,        Doctoral Candidate (Program in Genome Science and Technology)

Maddie joined the lab in the summer of 2016 after completing 2 rotations in our group (one on bioinformatics, a second on lipidomics).    She will be working with the Microcystis group in the lab, trying to understand not only how environmental conditions promote biomass formation, but how conditions allow Microcystis to outcompete out members of the community.


Lena Pound, M.Sc.,        Doctoral Candidate

Lena has returned to Knoxville to begin to work on her PhD.  After 2 years working on marine systems, her project will start by returning her to freshwater systems to look at the virus community associated with Microcystis bloom events



Naomi Gilbert,  B.Sc.,        Doctoral Candidate

Naomi comes to us from James Madison University (and former AMERG member Morgan Steffen's lab).  Naomi's dissertation research will see her collecting samples in the southern ocean as part of a research collaboration with scientists at CSIRO (Hobart) and Bigelow.  Her focus will be to resolve virus-host interactions from transcriptional data sets as well as to characterize the interplay between bacteria and phytoplankton with respect to trace metal cycling in marine surface waters.


Ashley Humphrey,  Undergraduate Assistant (Microbiology)


Ashley joined the lab in early 2016 to work on our Aureococcus genomics project.  Working alongside Eric Gann, she has been endeavoring to optimize our ability to culture this pelagophyte in large volumes, to grow it on plates and to generate biomass for a variety of ongoing lab studies.   She is also working with Alyssa to facilitate our collaboration with



Shelby Whitehead,  Undergraduate Assistant (Biology / Journalism)

Shelby is a double major gaining lab experience working with giant viruses and their protistan hosts in the lab.  Currently she is working closely with Samantha to develop functional plaque assays on new virus-host systems as well as to develop molecular tools to better study the ecology of giant viruses in the natural world.  Her first interactions with AMERG were as a journalist, where she penned a story on our lab research looking at how the microbiome modulates the severity of malaria.


updated 02/23/2018