Who we are
Harold T. Michels, PhD
Harold Michels retired in 2014 as Senior Vice President, Technology and Technical Services at the Copper Development Association, were he managed research related to creating new markets for copper. He recognized that copper alloys can play a role in controlling human pathogens, and initiated the laboratory research that proved that copper surfaces kill harmful bacteria. He has authored and co-authored several papers, published in peer-reviewed journals, on antimicrobial copper and managed the US EPA registration of antimicrobial copper alloys. In addition, he served as Principal Investigator in the US Department of Defense funded clinical trials that proved that antimicrobial copper alloys surfaces reduce infection rates.
He previously held a variety of positions with Inco Limited, a major producers of nickel, starting as a Research Metallurgist, and progressing through technical, marketing and management positions, including Vice President of INCO Venture Capital, President of the La Que Center for Corrosion Technology and Director of Strategic Planning for INCO Ltd, reporting the President. Inco, is now part of Vale S. A., one of the largest mining companies in the world.
Harold holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the City College of New York and an MS in Metallurgy and a PhD in Material Science from New York University.
Michael G. Schmidt, PhD
Michael G. Schmidt earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Donald B. Oliver at SUNY Stony Brook. In 1989, he was appointed to the faculty of Medical University of South Carolina in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology where he currently holds the rank of tenured Professor. Prof. Schmidt was elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology and the American College of Dentists. In 2017, he was selected as the South Carolina Governor’s Awardee for Excellence in Science and Scientific Awareness.
Currently, Prof. Schmidt is leading an inter-institutional/ interdisciplinary team of professionals investigating the role played by microbes present on objects in the built clinical environment of hospitals in the acquisition of healthcare associated infections (HAI). This group of infectious disease specialists, infection control professionals, architects and engineers are building on the success of a previous multi-center clinical trial. Prof. Schmidt and his colleagues established that, by controlling the microbial burden in the built clinical environment through the introduction of the limited and targeted placement of solid copper alloys, they were able to significantly reduce HAI acquisition rates by 58%. The results from this study were the basis of a talk he provided to TEDxCharleston in 2013. Recently his work with copper has expanded into the realm of dental materials where he is investigating with his clinical colleagues the role that copper-iodide nanoparticles might serve in continuously limiting microbial activity resulting in improved outcomes and longevity of dental restorations.
Additionally, his laboratory has expertise in the molecular characterization of complex biofilms, principally those associated with mixed microbial communities including those of medical and dental significance. Recent work has focused on the relationship between the population distribution of the human intestinal microbiome and the genesis of colorectal cancer, type II diabetes, NASH and necrotizing ulcerative colitis in a neonatal population.
Dr. Schmidt is active in the educational missions of the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry at MUSC. He serves as an invited reviewer for the literature of his field and is an active contributor to the American Society for Microbiology, the leading national and international society in his field. Dr. Schmidt chaired the ASM’s Council for Microbial Sciences, was a member of the society’s Communications Committee, co-chaired the development of their career poster, and facilitated the revision of the society’s public website, Microbeworld.org. He has led numerous, national workshops on the use of information technology in medicine, microbiology and infectious diseases (FEMA). Dr. Schmidt is also involved in public education on the societal impact of microbiology and infectious disease. He has twice been a panelist on Science Friday and was a former content editor for Microbeworld radio. Dr. Schmidt presently serves as regular contributor to the internationally recognized podcast This Week In Microbiology (TWiM).
Dr. Schmidt’s most significant publications/patents are listed in the area of the control of healthcare associated infections can be found in the RESEARCH section and elsewhere in this website. His other areas of research interest include phage therapy and the mineralization of vapor phase solvents.
Corinne A. Michels, PhD
Corinne A. Michels earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University, New York during which she was supported by a Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. A National Research Service Award from the NIH supported Dr. Michels’ postdoctoral training with Cyrus Levinthal at Columbia University, NY and Julius Marmur at Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx, NY, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratories of Cyrus Leventhal of Columbia University and Julius Marmur of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Michels joined the faculty of the Queens College – CUNY Biology Department in 1972 where, in recognition of her outstanding research career, she rose to the rank of CUNY Distinguished Professor in 2003. Distinguished Professor Michels was elected chair of the Department of Biology in 2001 and served four terms until her retirement in 2011.
Dr. Michels is a molecular geneticist whose research focuses on using genetic techniques to investigate biological systems and reveal their underlying molecular mechanisms. Her approach is explained in her book, Genetic Techniques for Biological Research: A Case Study Approach, that it teaches how to use genetics to analyze a problem and uncover the mechanisms controlling biological processes. She began her studies with the bacteria Escherichia coli to explore the coordinate production of three proteins. Dr. Michels spent most of her career working on the eukaryotic model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae, baker’s and brewer’s yeast. Saccharomyces cells are biochemically similar to human cells and those of other higher organisms but are far easier to study because the tools for molecular genetic analysis are more extensive and simpler to utilize. Her work focused on teasing apart the seemingly simple system for regulating the utilization of the sugar maltose as a model for regulated transcription. The results yielded novel findings regarding genome organization, multicopy gene families, regulation of the turnover of the cellular membrane, mechanisms of controlling membrane protein degradation proteolysis, and the role of molecular chaperones in controlling transcription activators.
Dr. Michels’ publications relevant to anti-microbial copper are listed in the RESEARCH section of this website. She was intrigued by the fact that bacteria seemed to be unable to make the genetic changes necessary to survive exposure to a copper alloy surface. Her professional experience suggested the possibility that any such genetic changes were either lethal or probably unlikely. Taken together with research in other laboratories that pointed to the cell membrane as the target of copper killing, Dr. Michels hypothesized that copper-induced damage to essential membrane lipids was the key event. Given that partially unsaturated fatty acids are an essential membrane component, she and her colleagues went on to demonstrate support for their hypothesis that non-enzymatic copper-induced peroxidation of membrane lipids was responsible for the catastrophic and irreversible bacterial death that occurs on copper alloy surfaces. The lack of copper-surface resistance provides strong support for a designer to use anti-microbial copper surfaces who is interested in controlling infection in the built environment.
Dr. Michels has a remarkable record of funding for her research. Over her academic career, she received over 30 years of continuous support from the National Institutes of Health for one project and 4 years funding for an independent project. She also received grants from the National Science Foundation to fund her research, travel, sabbatical, and a major research instrumentation award. Dr. Michels authored and coordinated the Queens College component of CUNY’s New York State Higher Education and Applied Technology Award and authored two successful proposals for Undergraduate Education in Science Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Dr. Michels was a Visiting Scientist 1997-1980 at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, NY where she worked with the newly formed “yeast group” and was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology of Columbia University, College of Physicians & Surgeons 1987-1988 where she began her investigation of membrane protein turnover with Prof. Howard Shuman. The latter was funded by a National Science Foundation Visiting Professorship for Women Award.
Dr. Michels served as a member of the Genetics Study Section of the National Institutes of Health from 1991-1995 and on several other grant review panels for the NIH and the NSF, including for the NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program and the Program Project Grants for the National Cancer Institute. She was also a reviewer of the research training awards for NSF Predoctoral Fellowship Awards and Howard Hughes Doctoral Fellowships in Biological Sciences, both for the National Research Council. Dr. Michels was a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Bacteriology and reviewed for numerous other journals.
Michels, C.A., 2002. Genetic Techniques for Biological Research: A Case Study Approach. Published by John Wiley & Sons, London. Pp. 254. ISBN-13: 978-0471899198