Slava Epstein

Slava EpsteinProfessor
Microbial ecology, diversity, and biotechnology

Department of Biology
Northeastern University
305 Mugar Life Sciences
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Lab Website:

Academic Education

  • PhD in Microbial Ecology, P.P.Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian National Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
  • MS in Marine Biology, Moscow State University, Russia
  • BS in Biology, Moscow State University, Russia


  • Professor, Department of Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA (2008 – present)
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA (2004 – 2008)
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA (1998 – 2004)
  • Fulbright Senior Fellow, Institute of Marine Biology of Crete, Crete, Greece (1998)
  • Senior Scientist, Marine Science Center, Northeastern University, Nahant, MA (1993 – pres.)
  • Max Planck Institute Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany (1992)
  • Assistant Scientist & Associated Lecturer, Center for Great Lakes Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1991 – 1992)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Massachusetts/Boston (1990 -1991)
  • Emigration to the US (1988 -1989)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Moscow & Petropavlovsk, USSR (1986 – 1988)

Other Professional Activities

  • Applied and Environmental Microbiology, member of the Editorial Board (2005 – pres.)
  • Chair-Elect, Division of Microbial Ecology of the American Society for Microbiology (2010)
  • Reviewer for Nature, Science, Cell, PNAS, PloS journals, and over a dozen of more specialized journals (1990 – pres.)
  • Reviewer and panelist for NSF, NIH, DOE, NASA, NOAA, and other US and foreign funding agencies (1990 – pres.)

Research Interests

The overarching theme of my laboratory is microbial discovery in the environment and human microbiome. We uncover novel microbial life forms by inventing novel cultivation strategies that depart from conventional wisdom and provide access to the greatest part of microbial diversity: unexplored species missed in the past. We study properties of new environmental and medically important microorganisms, and their strategies of survival. We are especially interested to know how microbial cell reacts to unfavorable conditions, survives environmental challenge, and decides when and where to start dividing and form a new successful population. We are intrigued by the phenomenon of microbial individuality: ability of isogenic cells to be phenotypically different. We are fascinated by signaling and cooperative interactions between and within populations, – interactions that integrate microbial species into multifunctional units analogues to multicellular organisms. We are also involved into several aspects of applied microbiology, and explore the importance of newly discovered species in human health, their potential for bioremediation and alternative fuel production, and ability to produce bioactive compounds. And we are excited to learn about patterns of microbial distribution on our planet, in a search for places in the biosphere where the opportunities to discover new microbes are the greatest.

Teaching Activities

My teaching focuses on in-depth coverage of several fascinating aspects of microbial biology: spectacular diversity of microbes in nature, their key roles in environmental processes and human health, ability to survive and thrive under the most challenging conditions, tendency to form tightly integrated entities reminiscent of multicellular organisms, capacity to talk to their neighbors, and power to be intriguingly different even when having identical genetic make up.