Tera Levin, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences

Education & Training

  • Postdoc, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California Berkeley
  • BA in Biology and Biochemistry, Oberlin College

Research Interests

The Levin lab studies the evolution of infectious diseases, seeking to understand how evolutionary “arms races” between hosts and pathogens dynamically shape the biology of immunity and pathogenesis. We approach these questions using a combination of high-throughput genetics, microbiology, and evolutionary genomics, focusing on the opportunistic pathogen Legionella pneumophila and its natural hosts, environmental amoebae.

Through this work, we are excited to discover general principles for how bacteria and hosts drive each others’ evolution.


  • How do evolutionary arms races alter the molecular weaponry of pathogens, and the defensive strategies of hosts?
  • What is the ancestry of modern mechanisms of immunity and pathogenesis? How do new mechanisms of immunity and pathogenesis arise?
  • How do new opportunistic pathogens emerge? Specifically, what sorts of host-microbe or microbe-microbe interactions in the environment select for these new pathogens?


Levin TC. 2021. mSphere of Influence: how I learned to love bacteria and their tangled evolutionary tree. mSphere 6: e00780-21. | View abstract
Richter DJ, Levin TC. 2019. The origin and evolution of cell-intrinsic antibacterial defenses in eukaryotes. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 58: 111-122. | View abstract

Levin TC, Goldspiel BP, Malik, HS. 2019. Density-dependent resistance protects Legionella pneumophila from its own antimicrobial metabolite, HGA. eLife 8: e46086. | View abstract

Levin TC and Malik, HS. 2017. Rapidly evolving Toll-3/4 genes encode male-specific Toll-like receptors in Drosophila. Molecular Biology and Evolution 34: 2307-2323. | View abstract

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