Faculty Spotlight: Mitchell Balish

photo of Mitchell Balish

  • associate professor in the Department of Microbiology
  • teaches bacterial cell biology, advanced cell biology, and bacteriophage genomics
  • research interests include bacterial cell structure
  • enjoys traveling and playing music


"I received my undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis in biology. I then went to graduate school in Emory University in Atlanta, where I got my PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. Before coming to Miami, I did post-doctoral work at the University of Georgia, where I switched to microbiology.

"I am interested in how cells of any kind build structures and how those structures work."


"I teach both undergraduate and graduate level classes. The class that I invest the most energy in is bacterial cell biology, which is for seniors and graduate students. I also teach advanced cell biology, an undergraduate seminar, and in the past I've taught introductory biology.

"What I enjoy most about teaching is when students just 'get it'. It's very easy to focus on the students who do not grasp the information, and I do what I can for them, but when I see a student's eyes open up, I get very excited!"


"Mycoplasmas are a kind of bacteria that cause disease in humans, plants, and animals. A lot of them make a structure called an attachment organelle; this is what they use to attach to a host cell that they are going to live off of, and it sometimes causes disease. It's surprising that mycoplasmas make something like this because they are thought of as very simple. The fact that they can do something so complex is surprising. I'm interested in what materials different mycoplasmas build these structures out of and how they actually work."

Outside the Classroom

"My wife is a lecturer in the Department of Microbiology, and she keeps me motivated, as well as my two children. It's great to see them grow up. I want to show my children that hard work and doing what you love is the way to live your life and the way to live successfully.

"I love to travel within and outside of the U.S. In my field, we have a number of international meetings, which I really enjoy."

[September 2014]