Marjorie M. (Kelly) Cowan

Professor Cowan

Professor Emerita of Microbiology

Phone: (513) 305-2248


Ph.D., University of Louisville, 1987
Postdoctoral position: University of Maryland Center of Marine Biotechnology; 1987-1989
Postdoctoral position: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands; 1989-1992

Academic Interests:
(Note: instructional faculty - not accepting graduate students)

Kelly has been a faculty member in the microbiology department of Miami University since 1993. While at Miami, Dr. Cowan has published several book chapters, a major review article, and two dozen research articles stemming from her work on bacterial adhesion mechanisms and plant-derived antimicrobial compounds. Her anti-adhesion research has been externally funded and is the subject of two patents. In 2021 a Stanford University study included her in the top 2% of researchers in terms of career-long impact.

Kelly is also an avid teacher and pedagogical researcher. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of College Science Teaching, the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching and The Teaching Professor. She is the recipient of a Celebration of Teaching Award sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities.

She is past chair of the Undergraduate Education Committee of the American Society for Microbiology and past chair of ASM's Division W. She has also served as president of the Ohio Branch of the American Society for Microbiology. From 2003-2005 she served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of Miami University Middletown; and was the campus Dean from 2005-2009. She served as a “loaned executive” in 2015, serving as director of the Middletown campus of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

Her McGraw-Hill textbook, Microbiology: A Systems Approach is in its sixth edition. She is also the author of Microbe Files: Case Studies for the Undergraduate (Pearson). Her third textbook, Fundamentals of Microbiology: A Clinical Approach, is in its fourth edition.

In recent years, Kelly has been researching the role of poverty in the college classroom, something acknowledged but all too often not acted upon.

“American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students, and persistent or growing inequalities over time.”

Academically Adrift, Richard Arum

These are talks she gives frequently around the country:

  • Bridging the Achievement Gap in Your Classroom, appropriate for high-school and college instructors of all disciplines
  • Poverty and Literacy, appropriate for schools, colleges, and almost any other type of group

After stepping down as dean, Kelly created the Community Building Institute (CBI), an independently funded organization that helps create strong neighborhoods and supports under-resourced citizens from pre-school to career in Middletown. CBI currently spends over $1 million serving Middletown’s needs.

Selected Publications

  • Rendle, P.M., A. Seger, J. Rodrigues, N.J. Oldham, R.R. Bott, J.B. Jones, M.M. Cowan, B.G. Davis. 2004. Glycodendriproteins: A synthetic glycoprotein mimic enzyme with branched sugar-display potently inhibits bacterial aggregation. J. Am. Chem. Soc.126: 4750-4751.

    This paper was chosen as one of the most significant research stories of 2004 by Chemical and Engineering News

  • Budu, C.E., J. Luengpailin, M.M. Cowan and R.J. Doyle. 2003. Virulence factors of Porphyromonas gingivalis are modified by polyphenol oxidase and asparaginase. Oral Microbiol. Immunol. 18:313-317.
  • Cowan, M.M., K. Abshire, S.L. Houk, S.N. Evans. 2003. Antimicrobial efficacy of a silver-zeolite matrix coating on stainless steel. J. Industrial Microbiol. Biotechnol. 30:102-106.


Microbiology: A Systems Approach, 5th EditionCowan, M.M.
Microbiology: A Systems Approach. 6th Edition,
2020. McGraw-Hill.


Microbiology Fundamentals: A Clinical ApproachCowan, M.M.
Microbiology Fundamentals: A Clinical Approach. 4th Edition
2021. McGraw-Hill.


The Microbe FilesCowan, M.M.
The Microbe Files: Case Studies in Microbiology for the Undergraduate.
2002. Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco, CA.


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