Personal profile

Research interests

Major interests have been in elucidating basic mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis. His work as utilized a unique blend of a powerful genetic system with x-ray crystallography, protein chemistry, high resolution electron microscopy, immunology and cell biology to study the molecular details of host-pathogen interactions that occur during urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by E. coli. He has become a world’s authority in issues relating to the structure and function of adhesive fibers called pili that play critical and unexpected roles in host-pathogen interactions. Studying UTIs, he found that bacterial entry into epithelial cells of the bladder provides a safe haven for bacterial persistence by activating the formation of intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs). Elucidation of the IBC program is changing the way UTIs are evaluated and treated and is re-shaping models of bacterial infections in general. His studies are teaching us fundamental aspects of bladder physiology that have implications for normal epithelial renewal and bladder cancer. He also is investigating amyloid-like fibers, called curli, produced by E. coli. This work has implications for the pathology of Alzheimer’s and other amyloid diseases. Work in his lab is spawning new technologies to design novel vaccines and anti-microbial therapeutics that will block the ability of bacteria to adhere to host tissues and prevent their ability to establish infections.


Dr. Hultgren has trained over 70 individuals most of whom have moved on to successful careers in academia and industry. Additionally, over the years he has developed a deep and rich network of collaborators all over the world that his trainees will have access to. He encourages his students and postdoctoral fellows to follow their own ideas and approaches, in order to lead them to new and exciting areas. His philosophy is to give credit to his mentees and to altruistically promote their career advancement on ideas and work spawned in the laboratory under his mentorship. Thus, he works to reward his mentees for their work, for their thirst for generating ideas and making discoveries, always trying to give them the credit and then subsequently working to foster their career development. He also continuously exposes his trainees to collaborators with expertise outside of his own, thus allowing them to expand their horizons. He then strongly encourages his trainees to take responsibility of new enterprises, which fosters their growth, maturation, and career development. His trainees are also encouraged to pursue their interests, even when it comes at a cost to his own research program, as they develop their careers and to pursue new approaches and new ideas and to follow up on unexpected results. His intent is to create an atmosphere where students and postdocs become hungry for knowledge, seeking creative approaches to elucidate complex networks in host-pathogen interactions and acquiring whatever expertise is necessary to answer the key questions.  

Available to Mentor:

  • PhD/MSTP Students


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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