Professor Robin May MA(Oxon), PhD

Professor Robin May

School of Biosciences
Professor of Infectious Disease

Contact details

School of Biosciences and Institute of Microbiology & Infection
The University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am Professor of Infectious Disease and Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection. My research centres on human infectious diseases, with a particular focus on the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions


  • MA(Oxon), Biological Sciences
  • PhD (Birmingham), Cell Biology


My PhD research, on the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton, was undertaken at the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL, and here at the University of Birmingham, with Professor Laura Machesky (now at the Beatson Institute, Glasgow).

In 2001 I was awarded a Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) fellowship and moved to the Netherlands to work with Professor Ronald Plasterk (now a member of the Dutch Parliament) on the mechanism of RNA interference in C. elegans.

In 2005 I was awarded an RCUK Fellowship to return to Birmingham as an independent Principal Investigator, where I am now Professor in Infectious Disease. In 2010 I was awarded a Lister Prize Research Fellowship and, in 2015, appointed as a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award holder.


I teach on infectious disease and immunology, recently primarily in the final year module “Human Evolution” and on the MSc programme in Microbiology and Infection

Postgraduate supervision

We are always interested in hearing from potential PhD students who may wish to join the lab. We typically take on one PhD student each year to join their project of choice. You can find out more about current graduate students in the group here:

Professor May offers PhD projects in the area of host-pathogen interactions (see details on FindAPhD) and via the Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD Program in Inflammatory Disease.

PhD opportunities

Doctoral research

PhD title
Regulation of the actin cytoskeleton.


Research Theme within School of Biosciences: Molecular Microbiology

Lab website address:

Short research description

My research focuses on the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions. My group combine high-resolution microscopy with molecular and genetic approaches to probe the events that underlie establishment and spread of infective agents.  We are particularly interested in the interaction between cells of the innate immune system, such as macrophages, and life-threatening fungal infections such as cryptococcosis.

Full research decsription

The evolution and molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions

The continual struggle between pathogens and their hosts is a major selective force, resulting in the evolution of ever more complex host-pathogen interactions as both sides attempt to 'win' the conflict. We are interested in the molecular basis of such interactions and in how they have evolved.

To address these questions we combine cellular and whole-organism based approaches to study the interaction between cells of the mammalian immune system (particularly macrophages) and several pathogens. Much of our work uses high-resolution imaging techniques to study processes such as phagocytosis, antigen presentation and pathogen evasion.  By combining this with genetic and immunological tools, we aim to develop so-called ‘immunotherapy’ approaches for dealing with a range of infections that cause life-threatening diseases, particularly in immunocompromised patients.

For more information please see our lab website.


For a full list of recent publications please visit

Selected publications

Probert M, Zhou X, Goodall M, Johnston SA, Bielska E, Ballou ER, May RC. Aglucuronoxylomannan epitope exhibits serotype-specific accessibility and redistributes towards the capsule surface during Titanisation of the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Infect Immun. 2019 doi: 10.1128/IAI.00731-18. PubMed PMID: 30670549.

Bielska E, Sisquella MA, Aldeieg M, Birch C, O’Donoghue EJ, May RC.  Pathogen-derived extracellular vesicles mediate virulence in the fatal human pathogen Cryptococcus gattii. Nature Communications, 2018 9:1556. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03991-6

Garelnabi M, Taylor-Smith LM, Bielska E, Hall RA, Stones D, May RC.Quantifying donor-to-donor variation in macrophage responses to the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. PLoS One, 2018 13(3):e0194615. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194615. PMID: 29596441.

Gilbert AS, Seoane PS, Sephton-Clark P, Bojarczuk A, Hotham R, Giurisato E, Sarhan AR, Hillen A, vande Velde G, Gray NS, Alessi DR, Cunningham DL, Tournier C, Johnston SA, May RC.  Vomocytosis of live pathogens from macrophages is regulated by the atypical MAP kinase ERK5.  Science Advances, 2017 3(8): e1700898.

Trzaska WJ, Wrigley H, Thwaites J, May RC.  Species-specific antifungal activity of blue light.  Sci Rep 2017 7(1):4605

Kocurek KI, Stones L, Bunch J, May RC, Cooper HJ. Top down LESA mass spectrometry protein analysis of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.  J Amer Soc Mass Spectrometry 2017. 10:2066-2077. doi: 10.1007/s13361-017-1718-8

Farrer RA, Voelz K, Henk DA, Johnston, SA, Fisher, MC, May RC & Cuomo C. Microevolutionary traits and comparative population genomics of the emerging pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus gattiiPhil Trans Roy Soc B. 2016 371:20160021

View all publications in research portal


How pathogens infect their hosts and how hosts retaliate; the interaction between human immune cells and a fatal fungal pathogen; the evolution of immunity which we study using a species of microscopic worm.

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office


infection and immunity; fungal infections; pathogens; innate immune systems; opportunistic infections