• Prof. Mathee is the first founding faculty member and founding chairman of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. A native of Malaysia, Dr. Mathee is a dedicated and demanding teacher who has received high praise from her students. She received BSc (Genetics) and M Sc (Microbial Genetics of Neisseria gonorrheae) degrees from the University of Malaya and went on to complete her Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Memphis under the tutelage of Martha M. Howe. She did her postdoctoral training at Tufts University in Boston on Helicobacter pylori pathogenesis. Subsequently, she joined Dennis Ohman at the University of Tennessee-Memphis, where she honed her expertise on Pseudomonas aeruginosa and cystic fibrosis (CF). Her interest in biofilm led her to spend time in Copenhagen, working with Niels Hoiby and Soren Molin on various aspects of the infections that ultimately lead to pulmonary failure in CF patients. In 1999, she joined the Department of Biological Sciences at FIU as an Assistant Professor of Pathogenic Microbiology. In 2007, she joined the newly formed Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine as the Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. In 2010 she was promoted to a full professor. She received her MPH on Health Policy and Management from FIU in 2018. She founded the Global Health Conference (previously called International Conference on Tropical Medicine) in 2011. She founded the Global Health Consortium in 2014 and served as the founding director until 2016.

    Prof. Mathee has established a multi-faceted research program focused on molecular pathogenesis in the model organism Pseudomonas aeruginosa that is responsible for the high morbidity and mortality in CF patients. She is very passionate about her research and how it might contribute to increasing cystic fibrosis patients' quality of life. She is well-respected nationally and internationally by researchers in multiple fields, including Pseudomonas pathogenesis, alternate therapy using botanicals, microbial biofilm development, regulation of prokaryotic transcription, phage molecular biology, microbiome, and bioinformatics. She has published more than 100 articles and several book chapters in the fields of molecular microbiology, forensic science, microbiome, and bioinformatics - many of which are recognized as seminal and have been selected for journal highlights. Her 2008 paper in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences was selected by the Faculty of 1000 Biology members, a much-coveted honor.

    In 2011, Prof. Mathee received the Mentor of the year award for her commitment to the success of her 150+ mentees, almost all of them have become successful in their chosen career. In 2014, she was honored with the Inaugural Inspiration in Science Award by New England BioLabs — The Passions in Science Award through the nomination of her mentees. In 2011, she was bestowed the highest honor of her career in FIU, the President's Council Worlds Ahead Faculty Award in recognition of outstanding achievement as a student-centered professor who makes an impact and exceeds expectations.

    Prof. Mathee is well-known in the international arena, serving as a member on many universities’ committees and holding adjunct appointments. She also served as Editor for several journals — Journal of Medical Microbiology, BMC Microbiology, and Frontier Microbiology. In 2017, the Microbiology Society appointed Professor Mathee as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Medical Microbiology, the first international editor in the journals 75-year history. She serves along with Dr, Norman Fry of Public Health England (the CDC equivalent in the UK).

  • 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.

selected publications

advised honors theses

research interests

  • Antibiotic resistance, Alginate gene regulation, Comparative genomics, Pseudomonas aeruginsoa, Microbiome, Cystic fibrosis, Peptidoglycan recycling, Beta-lactamases

full name

  • Kalai Mathee-Narasimhan


Recent publications and grants in Scholars@FIU

publication subject areas

  • Agriculture
  • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Biotechnology & Applied Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • General & Internal Medicine
  • Genetics & Heredity
  • Immunology
  • Integrative & Complementary Medicine
  • Legal Medicine
  • Mathematical & Computational Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology & Pharmacy
  • Plant Sciences
  • Science & Technology - Other Topics
  • Virology
Citation index-derived subject areas the researcher has published in