Michael Worobey

Department Head

Louise Foucar Marshall Science Research Professor

Positions and Education: 

  • Department Head, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 2015-present.
  • Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 2011-present.
  • Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 2009-2011.
  • Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 2003-2009.
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Zoology/St. John’s College, University of Oxford. 2001-2003.
  • D. Phil., Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. 2001.
  • B. Sc. (Hons), Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

Honors and Awards: 

  • 2016-present: Louise Foucar Marshall Science Research Professorship
  • 2018: Virus Genomics and Evolution conference, Cambridge, UK, Keynote Speaker
  • 2018: Lansdowne Lecturer, University of Victoria
  • 2017: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Center for Immunity and Infection, Distinguished Guest Lecturer
  • 2010: 19th Canadian Association of HIV Researchers Conference, Distinguished Speaker
  • 2009: Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy
  • 2009: Distinguished Alumnus, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University
  • 2009: 16th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Distinguished Speaker
  • 2008: National Academy of Science, US Frontiers of Science Kavli Fellow
  • 2006-2011: David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Packard Fellowship
  • 2001: Junior Research Fellowship, St. John’s College, University of Oxford
  • 1997: Rhodes Scholarship

Research Interests: 

Dr. Worobey taps into the genomes of viruses, using molecular and computational biology, to understand the origins, emergence and control of pandemics.  He has made discoveries pinpointing, for example, where, when and how HIV originated and spread worldwide and how influenza pandemics, including the intense 1918 pandemic, emerge and kill large numbers of people.  Recently, his interdisciplinary work on SARS-CoV-2 has shed light on how and when the virus originated and ignited the COVID-19 pandemic in China and how SARS-CoV-2 emerged and took hold in North America and Europe.

Current research includes (1) SARS-CoV-2 genomic epidemiology and evolution from local to global scales, (2) work at the intersection of viral evolution and immunology with both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses, (3) influenza vaccines, and (4) pandemic preparedness and prevention.


Selected Publications: 

  1. Washington NL, et al. Emergence and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 in the United States. 2021. Cell 184 1-8.
  2. Pekar J, Worobey M, Moshiri N, Scheffler K, Wertheim JO. Timing the SARS-CoV-2 index case in Hubei province. 2021. Science 372, 412-417.
  3. Worobey M, Pekar J, Larsen BB, Nelson MI, Hill V, Joy JB, Rambaut A, Suchard MA, Wertheim JO, Lemey P. The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in Europe and North America. 2020. Science 370,  564-570.
  4. Worobey M, Plotkin S, Hensley SE. Influenza vaccines delivered in early childhood could turn antigenic sin into antigenic blessings. 2020. Cold Spring Harbor Perspect Med 10, a038471. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a038471
  5. Gryseels S, Watts TD, Mpolesha JK, Larsen BB, Lemey P, Muyembe-Tamfum J, Teuwen DE, Worobey M. A near full-length HIV-1 genome from 1966 recovered from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue. 2020. PNAS 117, 12222-12229.
  6. Gostic KM, Ambrose M, Worobey M, Lloyd-Smith JO. Potent protection against H5N1 and H7N9 influenza via childhood hemagglutinin imprinting. 2016. Science 354, 722-726.
  7. Worobey M, Watts TD, McKay RA, Suchard MA, Granade T, Teuwen DE, Koblin BA, Heneine W, Lemey P, Jaffe HW. 1970s and 'Patient 0' HIV-1 genomes illuminate early HIV/AIDS history in North America. 2016. Nature 539, 98-101. Worobey M, Han GZ, Rambaut A. The genesis and pathogenesis of the 1918 influenza pandemic. 2014. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 104: 18566-18570.
  8. Worobey M, Han GZ, Rambaut A. A synchronized global sweep of the internal genes of modern avian influenza A virus. 2014. Nature. 508, 254–257.
  9. Worobey M, Telfer P, Souquière S, Hunter M, Coleman CA, Metzger MJ, Reed P, Makuwa M, Hearn G, Honarvar S, Roques P, Apetrei C, Kazanji M, Marx PA. Island Biogeography Reveals the Deep History of SIV. 2010. Science 329, 1487.
  10. Smith GJD, Vijaykrishna D, Bahl J, Lycett SJ, Worobey M, Pybus OG, Ma SK, Cheung CL, Raghwani J, Bhatt S, Peiris JSM, Guan Y & Rambaut A. Origins and evolutionary dynamics of the 2009 swine-origin H1N1 influenza A epidemic. 2009. Nature 459, 1122-1125
  11. Worobey M, Gemmel L, Teuwen D, Haselkorn T, Kunstman K, Bunce M, Kabongo J-M, Kalengayi R, Muyembe JJ, Van Marck E, Gilbert MTP, Wolinsky SM. 2008. Direct evidence of extensive HIV-1 diversity in Kinshasa by 1960. Nature 455, 661-664.
  12. Worobey, M, Santiago, ML, Keele, BF, Ndjango, N, Joy, JB, Labama, L Dhed'a, D, Rambaut, A, Sharp, PM, Shaw, GM and Hahn, BH 2004.  Origin of AIDS: contaminated polio vaccine theory refuted. Nature 428, 820.