Maryanne Simurda Professor of Biology

Maryanne Simurda

Howe 313

Joined W&L Faculty in 1989


Undergraduate Degree: Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA

Graduate Degrees: M.S. Michigan State University

Ph.D. State University of New York at Buffalo


Serratia marcescens is a ubiquitous bacterium that is also an opportunistic pathogen, found in nosocomial infections, especially in immunocompromised patients and patients with indwelling catheters. These bacteria are motile by swimming with a single flagellum or by swarming or by biofilm formation. They also can produce a characteristic red molecule called prodigiosin. Temperature and growth conditions, including the presence or absence of antibiotics, affect the ability of these bacteria to produce prodigiosin and influence their mode of motility. To understand their movement along a catheter's interior surface, I am interested in characterizing the effects of temperature and the presence or either ampicillin or tetracycline on the motility of Serratia marcescens and in identifying the structural and regulatory genes involved in prodigiosin production, swarming, and biofilm formation.

With my colleague, Dr. John Knox, I have worked on the origins and biogeography of Helenium virginicum, an endangered plant found in certain sinkhole ponds in Augusta and Rockingham Counties, Virginia. By comparing the DNA sequences of the Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) regions, we have determined the relationship of H. virginicum to the other members of the Helenium autumnale species complex and its identity with disjunct populations recently found in southeastern Missouri. Our data also identified a sister-group of H. virginicum, uniquely found on the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.

I also work with the W&L Legal Clinic's faculty and students who represent, pro bono, coal workers and their families to obtain compensation for medical treatment and disability in suits against coal companies. Since many of the facts in these cases revolve around the immunological bases of black lung disease (Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis) undergraduate students and I research the current literature on this disease and report our findings to the Legal Clinic's faculty and students. We provide lawyers with the biological information and explanations needed for their court hearings.


Fundamentals of Biology (Biology 111)
Parasitology (Biology 210)
Microbiology (Biology 310)
Immunology (Biology 350)
Virology (Biology 396)

Selected Publications

Simurda, M. C. and J. S. Knox. 2000. ITS sequence evidence for the disjunct distribution between Virginia and Missouri of the narrow endemic Helenium viginicum (Asteraceae). Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 127: 316-323.