Kalai Mathee is the first Florida International University (FIU) faculty member inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Mathee is a professor and researcher at the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM). Of the two Malaysians ever inducted, she is the second and the first woman who was also educated in her vernacular language of Tamil.
She is one of 68 new fellows selected by the Academy this year. The Academy is the honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology, one of the oldest and largest life science societies in the world. The fellows are voted-in through a highly selective peer-review process that focuses on their original contributions to advance science and microbiology. The following countries are represented in the class of 2020: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The fellows came from many prestigious institutions — Harvard, University of California-Berkely, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-San Francisco, Johns Hopkins, Max Plank Institute, University of Cambridge, to name a few.
Mathee joined FIU in 1999 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. When the FIU medical school was created, she became the first founding faculty and the founding chair of the HWCOM Department of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. She rose up to the rank of Professor in 2010. She founded the FIU Global Health Conference in 2011 and the Global Health Consortium in 2014. In 2011, she was received Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentorship. That was topped by 2011 President’s Council Worlds Ahead Faculty Award, the highest honor at FIU. In 2014, she was one of the inaugural recipients of the international New England Biolabs Passion in Science Award for exemplary scientific mentorship and advocacy.
She has mentored 140+ individuals from professors to middle-school students. Along with her mentees, she has published more than 120+ articles and several book chapters in the fields of alginate gene regulation, antimicrobial resistance, gut, and lung metagenome and microbiome, alternate therapeutics, forensic science, comparative genomics, and bioinformatics. She has four patents to her credit. She has given 120+ lectures across the globe. She also serves as the editor-in-chief along with Norman Fry of Public Health England of the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the first international editor in its 50-year history.
Mathee received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology (focus on molecular microbiology) at the University of Tennessee, Memphis in 1992, and Masters in Public Health, majoring in health policy and management in 2018 from Florida International University. A native of Malaysia, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Genetics (1984) and a Master of Science (1986) in Microbial Genetics from the University of Malaya.