Laura Knoll Assumes Role as Associate Dean for Basic Research Training

She will oversee the school’s efforts to train and mentor the next generation of scientists investigating the fundamentals of biomedical phenomena. Known as basic research, this work serves as the critical and essential foundation of translational and clinical research and leads to cutting edge innovations in medicine and public health.

Drawing on two decades of experience as a faculty trainer and mentor, she will be responsible for the leadership and direct management of day-to-day activities in basic research training. She will lead and institute new services the school provides to graduate students, post-doctoral learners, and research fellows, such as those related to recruitment, financial support, mental health and wellness, and professional development. She will also oversee academic policy and budget development and administration as they relate to these groups.

“I am excited to take on this challenging role because I love science and I love training the next generation of scientists,” she said. “I know that diversity boosts scientific creativity so I will focus on generating a positive training atmosphere for all trainees, especially those from underrepresented communities. I hope to help rebuild a sense of camaraderie between basic science trainees after the isolation we have all experienced during the pandemic.”

Knoll has been a professor of medical microbiology and immunology in the school since 2001. Her current leadership roles include service as co-director of the university’s Parasitology and Vector Biology Training Program for 10 years and director for four years, as well as involvement in university and national committees focused on diversity and mentorship. Knoll is a champion of underrepresented students in science in her own laboratory and on campus. She is also founding co-director of Science to Script at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which works with the entertainment industry to increase the diverse representation of characters in stories related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Her research focuses on understanding the host-pathogen interactions of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes encephalitis in immunocompromised patients and is in the same family as parasites that cause malaria and diarrhea.

“Professor Knoll embodies all of the essential characteristics of a leader in basic research training,” says Anjon Audhya, PhD, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology, and graduate studies. “She is passionate about mentoring and cares deeply about ensuring the success of our undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. I have no doubt that she will have an amazingly positive influence over the research training experience for all of our trainees, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds in the sciences.”