James Riordan

Professor of Instruction and Director, NTMS Program


Office: ISA 6006


  • B.S. Biology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, 1999
  • Ph.D. Molecular Biology, New Mexico State University, 2006.


  • Research and Development Bacteriologist, American Type Culture Collection, Manassas, VA, 1999
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, 2006


Undergraduate Courses:

Medical Bacteriology (MCB 4115). Course objectives: The objective of this course is to provide a review of the different types of bacteria known to cause disease in humans. These bacteria will be discussed with respect to their origins, morphology, epidemiology, syndromes associated with infection, pathogenesis, diagnosis, identification, prevention, and therapy. Prerequisites: Microbiology, MCB 3020.

Microbiology (MCB 3020). Course Objectives: The objective of this course is to provide an overview of the fundamental principles of microbiology, emphasizing the prokaryotic domain of life. Units include cell structure and function, genetics, metabolism, and infectious disease. Prerequisites: Bio I and lab BSC 2010/L, Bio II and lab BSC 2011/L, and Chemistry II CHM 2046.

Molecular Microbiology (MCB 4320). Course Objectives: This course explores advanced topics in molecular microbiology. Emphasis is on molecular genetics of bacteria and bacteriophage, and genetic regulation of responses to the natural environment. Prerequisites: Microbiology, MCB 3020.

Seminar in Microbiology (MCB 4934). Course Objectives: This course provides a capstone experience for senior microbiology majors in the department of Molecular Biosciences. The course focuses on the processes, patterns, critical thinking, analysis, and methods applied to the field of microbiology.

Graduate Courses:

Advances in Life Science (BSC 6932). Course Objectives: This course seeks to strengthen science communication skills through reading and discussion of current research in the life sciences. Topics include data analysis, exploration and management, experimental design, statistical analysis, reading and managing literature, funding, scientific writing, and forms of scientific communication.

CMNT Seminar (BSC 6932). Course Objectives: This course focuses on honing critical thinking, data analysis, and science communication skills. Students interpret, and critique research and review papers from science literature, [and develop an outline of the research paper required] for the NTMS degree.

Past RESEARCH Experience

Regulation of virulence and stress fitness in pathogenic E. coli:

Alternative sigma factor N:
Sigma N (encoded by rpoN) is an alternative sigma subunit of the RNA polymerase machinery that confers specificity to transcription initiation under specific growth conditions. We have determined that the deletion of rpoN in E. coli modulate the expression of gene clusters involved in resistance to acid (important for low infectious dose and for transmission), as well as those encoded on a pathogenicity island (the LEE) important for gut colonization (Riordan et al. 2009, Microbiology 156(Pt. 3):719. PubMed); (Mitra et al. 2012, PLoS One. 7(9): e46288 (PMID 23029465) PubMed. Current studies examine the stimuli and mechanisms by which sigma N is activated to control acid resistance and the LEE, and the significance of this control to disease progression.

Rcs phosphorelay:
Rcs is a multi-component phosphorelay system in E. coli which transmits various environmental signals to the transcriptional machinery. We have determined that the Rcs system is required for activation of the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) in response to physiologic bicarbonate in the intestine (Morgan et al. 2013, Microbiology 159:2342. PubMed). Adding to this, a reciprocating pathway has been identified by our group in which Rcs and the LEE-encoded regulator GrlA cooperatively repress motility. These observations have led us to hypothesize that Rcs phosphorelay coordinates LEE activation and adherence with LEE-directed repression of motility and dispersion in response to gut stimuli.