- B.S. in Biology, Calvin College, 2001
- Ph.D. in Microbiology, Michigan State University, 2006
After graduating from Calvin College in 2001, John went to Michigan State University to complete a Ph.D. in Microbiology, there he focused on the sub-field of microbial ecology. After completion of his Ph.D., he went on to a postdoctoral position, also at Michigan State, doing research in a developing (as-yet-unnamed) field where microbial ecology meets medical microbiology. As part of his postdoctoral experience, he jumped at the opportunity to teach an introductory biology course for biology majors, which consisted of a class size of 250 students. Jumping away from such large class sizes (among other things), he sought refuge back at Calvin where he has been teaching since 2007.
At Calvin Professor Wertz teaches the Phage Research course, Microbiology, and Medical Microbiology. Others areas of scholarly interest include the history of science, and how disease epidemics have shaped world history.
While not at Calvin, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, boating, swimming, biking, and hiking. An avid music lover, he is often found at various concerts around Grand Rapids or dancing (badly) to music in his office.
Research and Professional Interests
Dr Wertz's research interests include investigating bacterial symbioses within complex ecosystems. He is particularly interested in the phenomenon of microaerophily in bacteria, the detection and cultivation of novel bacterial diversity, and the biochemical basis for microbe-microbe and host-microbe symbioses. As a model, he uses the termite gut, which consists of as many as 700 different species of bacteria that interact in a complex web with each other and with the termite host. He has been successful in isolating several novel bacteria from this ecosystem, which he continues to study and be surprised by their intricate complexity. He has also been able to take the lessons learned from studying the bacterial symbionts in termite guts and apply that to the human microbial community. He has collaborated with Dr. Amy Wilsterman at Calvin and Dr. Terry Marsh at MSU, investigating human bacterial community dynamics and the connection to pre-term birth. He also continues to collaborate with Dr. Tom Schmidt at MSU answering questions about novel members of the bacterial phylum Verrucomicrobia as well as efforts to cultivate and study how the human intestinal microbiota contributes to health and disease, particularly with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- BIOL-123 - Living Systems
- BIOL-141L - Cell Biology and Genetics Lab
- BIOL-161L - Cellular & Genetic Systems Lab
- BIOL-207 - Medical Microbiology
- BIOL-207L - Medical Microbiology Lab
- BIOL-336 - General Microbiology
- BIOL-336L - General Microbiology Lab
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Research and scholarship
- Genomic and physiological characterization of the Verrucomicrobia isolate Diplosphaera colitermitum gen. nov., sp. nov., reveals microaerophily and nitrogen fixation genes. Wertz JT, Kim E, Breznak JA, Schmidt TM, Rodrigues JL. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Mar;78(5):1544-55.
- Cluster K mycobacteriophages: insights into the evolutionary origins of mycobacteriophage TM4. Pope WH, Ferreira CM, Jacobs-Sera D, Benjamin RC, Davis AJ, DeJong RJ, Elgin SC, Guilfoile FR, Forsyth MH, Harris AD, Harvey SE, Hughes LE, Hynes PM, Jackson AS, Jalal MD, MacMurray EA, Manley CM, McDonough MJ, Mosier JL, Osterbann LJ, Rabinowitz HS, Rhyan CN, Russell DA, Saha MS, Shaffer CD, Simon SE, Sims EF, Tovar IG, Weisser EG, Wertz JT, Weston-Hafer KA, Williamson KE, Zhang B, Cresawn SG, Jain P, Piuri M, Jacobs WR Jr, Hendrix RW, Hatfull GF. PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26750.
- John T. Wertz, Natasha Isaacs-Cosgrove, Claudia Holzman, and Terence L. Marsh, “Temporal Shifts in Microbial Communities in Nonpregnant African-American Women with and without Bacterial Vaginosis” INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES Volume October 2008, Article ID 181253
In the news
Calvin biology professor receives grant to study ants’ guts
John Wertz has spent his career studying “good” bacteria and was recently awarded $479,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue his research.
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