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Joseph Peters

Joseph Peters

Professor; and Director of Graduate Studies

175a Wing Hall
(607) 255-2271

Joe Peters earned a B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University, a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Maryland at College Park and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Research Focus

Our lab is interested in DNA replication, recombination and repair. While these processes are essential for maintaining the integrity of genetic information they also guide the development of new functions during evolution. In addition, the systems found in bacteria generally have homologous counterparts across all domains of life allowing work in bacteria to be relevant to our understanding of all types of organisms including humans.

One major area of study in our group involves determining the molecular mechanisms that protect DNA during DNA replication. DNA is more vulnerable to damage when it is being replicated. This is especially true for one strand of the chromosome that is replicated in a discontinuous process involving repetitive initiation events. Interestingly, many types of mobile DNA elements like viruses and transposons also gain access to insert into a host chromosome when it is undergoing discontinuous DNA replication. Our work is revealing undiscovered systems that help protect the integrity of DNA during this vulnerable time and how mobile elements can subvert these host protection systems. In addition to allowing a better understand of broadly conserved mechanisms of DNA stability our work is also aimed at developing new techniques that will allow us to modify the genetic content of bacteria for basic science and genetic engineering.

Teaching Focus

Bacterial Genetics (BioMI4850) - Students gain a detailed understanding of how bacteria maintain and pass on genetic information with a strong focus on the the model organisms, Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. They discover the processes by which bacteria evolve through different mutations and the exchange of genetic information. The course explores how genes are regulated efficiently through negative and positive regulation and by global regulatory mechanisms. Upon completion of the course students should understand the tools used to manipulate bacterial genomes for the understanding of bacteria and other living organisms.

There is also an extra credit option for this course. The extra credit option involve an extra class meeting where we work from primary literature to get more into the details in some areas touched upon in the larger class.

Microbial Genetics (BioMI 6904) - This 1 credit module will cover bacterial genetics. The format will involve an introduction lecture at the first class and then mini-lectures in subsequent classes. These mini-lectures will introduce topics that will be explored more thoroughly with a class discussion of a primary literature article at the following class. Questions will be given out to help focus each discussion on key questions and issues.

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Book Chapters

  • Peters, J. E. (2007). Gene transfer in gram-negative bacteria. Methods for General and Molecular Microbiology (ISBN 978-1-55581-223-2) C. A. Reddy, T. J. Beveridge, J. A. Breznak, G. A. Marzluf, T. M. Schmidt, and L. R. Snyder (ed.), ASM Press, Washington, D.C..


  • Snyder, L., Peters, J. E., Henkin, T., & Champness, W. (2012). Molecular Genetics of Bacteria (ISBN 978-1-55581-627-8). p. 728 ASM Press, Washington, D.C..