Dr. Virginia Young

Professor of Biology

Director of Women’s and Gender Studies

EducationDr. Virginia Young

  • B.S., Microbiology, Clemson University, Clemson, SC
  • Ph.D., Microbiology and Immunology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Biology, I and II (BIO 211 and 212)
  • Microbiology (BIO 303)
  • Current Issues in Biology (BIO 250)
  • Immunology (BIO 482)
  • Virology (BIO 490)
  • Biology Special Topics: Tropical Diseases (BIO 490)
  • Elements of Microbiology (BIO 102)
  • Women and Gender Studies Special Topics: Fiber Arts and Culture (WGS 385)
  • Service Learning (SRV 199)
  • Engaging the World (INT 301)



Research Interest

My scholarship focuses on symbiotic interactions. Symbiotic interactions are often considered mutualistic, a relationship in which both species benefit. However, symbioses are more correctly defined by two species living together. In fact, the relationship can be beneficial, harmful, or irrelevant to either in the pair. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Glenn Rall’s lab at Fox Chase Cancer Center, I studied the trafficking of measles virus through neurons of the central nervous system using primary murine hippocampal neurons, an example of a parasitic symbiosis. In my work at Mercer, I have actively collaborated with others in my department to continue my studies on symbioses. For example, my lab has recently confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria on the carapaces of a newly identified harvestman species, Prionostemma species 6. I worked with Dr. Michael Moore to collect specimens from the Tobago rain forests, and we identified this species for further study based on its unique blue color on its carapace. We suspected, and have now confirmed, that this harvestman species was another example of cyanobacteria colonizing the exoskeletons of these arachnids, supporting the two previously published reports from Brazil and Costa Rica of harvestman carrying cyanobacteria on their backs. Further work will be done to determine the nature of the symbiotic interaction between the cyanobacteria and the harvestmen. Additional areas of research include investigating the efficacy of long-term antimicrobials in protecting collegiate athletes from microbial infections and using neurotropic viruses to trace neuronal circuits in a mouse model.

Recent Publications

  • V. A. Young and A. M. Kiefer. 2014. Kimchi: Spicy Science for the Undergraduate Microbiology Laboratory. J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. In press.
  • C. D. Byron, D. van Valkinburgh, K. Northcutt, and V. Young. 2013. Plasticity in the Cerebellum and Primary Somatosensory Cortex Relating to Habitual and Continuous Slender Branch Climbing in Laboratory Mice (Mus musculus). Anat Rec. 296(5):822-833.
  • V. R. Townsend Jr, M. K. Moore, D. N. Proud, and V. A. Young. 2012. Harvestmen (Arachnida: Opiliones) of Tobago, West Indies. Living World 41-53.
  • V. A. Young and G. F. Rall. 2009. Making it to the synapse: measles virus spread in and among neurons. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol 330:3-30.


Contact Dr. Virginia Young

(478) 301-2577