Leslie Schiff headshot
Office Address

Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States



Professor, CBS Honors Liaison, Associate Dean for University Curriculum, Director of Undergraduate Studies - Microbiology Major
Biology Teaching and Learning,
Microbiology and Immunology

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Research interests

Virus entry and translational control; Microbiology education; Communication/writing in STEM disciplines; Teaching with writing; Active learning

Selected publications

Nygaard, R.M., Lahti, L., Boehme, K.W., Ikizler, M., Doyle, R.D., Dermody, T.S., and Schiff, L.A. (2013) Genetic Determinants of Reovirus Pathogenesis in a Murine Model of Respiratory Infection, J. Virol. 87 (16): 9279-9289

Schulz, W.L., Haj, A.K. and Schiff, L.A. (2012). Reovirus Uses Multiple Endocytic Pathways for Cell Entry, J. Virol. 86 (23): 12665-12675

Nygaard, R., Golden, Joseph W., and Schiff, L.A. (2012). Impact of Host Proteases on Reovirus Infection in the Respiratory Tract. J. Virol. 86 (2): 1238-1243

Alain, T., Kim, T.S., Lun, X., Liacini, A, Schiff, L.A., Senger, D.L. and Forsyth, P.A. (2007). Proteolytic disassembly is a critical determinant for reovirus oncolysis. Molecular Therapy 15 (8): 1512-1521.

Goodman, A.G., Smith, J.A., Balachandran, S., Perwitawari, O., Proll, S.C., Thomas, M.J., Korth, M.J., Barber, G.N., Schiff, L.A. and Katze, M.G. (2007). The cellular protein P58IPK regulates influenza virus mRNA translation and replication through a PKR-mediated mechanism. J. Virol. 81(5): 2221-2230. (selected for inclusion in JVI Spotlight)

Schiff, L, Nibert, M.L. and Tyler, K. (2006) Reoviruses. In: Fields Virology. Knipe, Howley, eds. LWW, publishers.

Smith, J.S., Schmechel, S.C., Raghavan, A., Abelson, M., Reilly, C., Katze, M.G., Kaufman, R.J., Bohjanen, P.R. and Schiff, L.A. (2006). Reovirus induces and benefits from a cellular integrated stress response. J. Virol. 80 (4): 2019-2033. (selected for inclusion in JVI Spotlight)

Golden, J.W. and Schiff, L.A. (2005) Neutrophil elastase, an acid-independent serine protease, facilitates reovirus uncoating and infection in U937 promonocyte cells. Virology Journal 2(48).

Smith, J.A., Schmechel, S.C., Williams, B., Silverman, R. and Schiff, L.A. (2005) Involvement of the interferon-regulated antiviral proteins PKR and RNase L in reovirus-induced shutoff of host translation. J. Virol. 79 (4): 2240-2250.

Golden, J.W., Bahe, J., Lucas, W.T., Nibert, M.L. and Schiff, L.A. (2004) Cathepsin S supports acid-independent infection by some reoviruses. J. Biol. Chem. 279: 8547-8557.

Golden, J.W., Linke, J., Schmechel, S.C., Thoemke, K. and Schiff, L.A. (2002). Addition of exogenous protease facilitates reovirus infection in many restrictive cells. J. Virol. 76:7430-7443.

Education and background

Degrees earned

  • BS, Brown University
  • Ph.D, Tufts University

Curriculum Vitae


  • University of Minnesota President’s Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award, 2000
  • University of Minnesota Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Writing Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing, 2001
  • Horace T. Morse University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, 2002
  • Academy of Distinguished Teachers, University of Minnesota, 2002-present
  • Convocation Speaker, University of Minnesota, 2003
  • Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Minnesota, 2003
  • Carki Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award, American Society for Microbiology, 2004
  • Committee on Institutional Cooperation Academic Leadership Fellow, 2007-2008
  • American Academy of Microbiology Fellow, 2009
  • Academic Health Center Academy for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2014

Teaching statement

I want my classroom and educational objectives to be dynamic and collaborative. As a research scientist, I can’t help but experiment, and use my research skills to analyze the educational outcomes. Classroom activities, assignments, approaches are all subject to evolution. Every year I try something new to improve the teaching and learning experience. At the core of my teaching is the fact that it depends heavily on relationships. Whether I am teaching a small writing group or the full class of 50, it can’t be a place where students lurk anonymously behind their laptop screens or deep in their hoodies. I teach in an active learning classroom where I can wander amongst the tables and get close to the students. I cajole, implore, question, model and explain. Although I am by nature an introvert, I want the students to see how much I enjoy what I do and how excited I am about helping them learn new information and new skills.

Favorite teaching innovation or approach

I have always been interested in using technology to expand and enhance the classroom. I was an early adopter of the web-based content organizer, WebCT (now Moodle). Last year I began to use Moodle to push pre-class quizzes to students electronically. A few years ago I began to use clickers in the classroom. Now every class period includes a number of question slides with multiple choice answers. These might probe student’s preparation for the lecture, or understanding of material presented recently. Sometimes I will ask questions at the end of class about material we just covered. It allows on-the-go real time assessment, and we can work as a group to clear up misconceptions and review material that was confusing. Students can work together in small groups to explain material and re-vote. I will never go back---clickers are a fabulous way to bring active learning into a content-heavy disciplinary course. Finally, I’ve been able to use a mirroring program to run my laptop and the clicker software while moving about the classroom. This is essential to take maximal advantage of the state-of-the-art active learning classrooms we have in the new science classroom building.

Courses taught

  • MicB 8421: Virology and Tumor Biology (graduate level), 1990-1999
  • MicB 5425: Virology and Molecular Genetics Laboratory (undergraduate level), 1990-1999
  • MicB 5205: Microbiology for Medical Students, 1998-1999
  • MIMP 8002: Structure, Function, and Genetics of Bacteria and Viruses (graduate level), 2000-2005 [team taught: 6 contact hours]
  • MICaB 8010: Microbial Pathogenesis (graduate level), 2001-2007 [team taught: 4 contact hours]
  • Grad 8101: Teaching in Higher Education (graduate and post-graduate level), 2002
  • Grad 8200: Active Learning and Course Design in the Sciences (graduate and postgraduate level), 2004
  • MicB 4141W: Biology, Genetics and Pathogenesis of Viruses (undergraduate level, Writing Intensive) 2000-present, [sole responsibility: 44 contact hours, enrollment ~12]
  • MicB 4171: Biology, Genetics and Pathogenesis of Viruses (undergraduate level, non-writing intensive) 2004-present, [sole responsibility: 38 contact hours, enrollment ~40]
  • Biol 4960H/4961H: Thesis writing support, 2010-present (developing curriculum for honors and non-honors support of capstone writing)

Recent presentations, invited seminars and workshops

Carski Award Lecture, ASM Annual Meeting: “Cell Phones, CNN, TiVo and Teaching: Educational Challenges in these Digital Times”, 2004

Reinvention Center, Access and Success: Undergraduate Education in the 21st Century: “Using Writing to Enhance Learning and Critical Thinking in Disciplinary Courses”, 2012

Mayo Clinic: “Reovirus Oncolysis: Breaking and entering, killing and leaving, spreading the mayhem”, 2011

International Writing Across the Curriculum Conference: Panel Discussion “Mapping Waves, Bridging Shifts: Disciplinary Faculty Take on Whole Curricula”, 2014

Professional experience

  • Postdoctoral Associate with Dr. Bernard Fields; Harvard Medical School, 1985 - 1990
  • Assistant Professor (Microbiology); University of Minnesota, 1990-1996
  • Associate Professor (Microbiology); University of Minnesota, 1996-2005
  • Professor (Microbiology); University of Minnesota, 2005-present
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies (Microbiology); University of Minnesota, 1999-present
  • Associate Dean for Curricular Innovation and Assessment (College of Biological Sciences), 2012-2013
  • Director of Undergraduate Initiatives (College of Biological Sciences), 2013-
  • Associate Dean, University Curriculum (University of Minnesota Twin-Cities), 2013-

Professional service

Reviewer (*Education-related) :
  • NIH: Virology Study Section (full member, 1998-2001); ad hoc (2004); VIRB Study Section, (ad hoc, 2005; full member, 2006-2010)
  • Ad hoc: Veterans Administration Merit Grant Awards, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Journal of Virology, Virology, Journal of General Virology, others
  • Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program grant review panel (2003-2005)*
  • Reviewer, NSF-BIO Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site proposals, 2008*
  • American Academy of Microbiology: Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award Selection Committee, 2010-2013*
Education outreach:
  • Consultant on an NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the Minnesota Science Museum: "Science Education Partnership—Tissues of Life" (RR15645,awarded in 2002)
  • Facilitated development of a “Tissue Invaders” exhibit to focus on microbial interactions with human hosts.
  • Presented information on the study of viruses to participants in the Minnesota Science Museum’s Biotechnology Teacher Curriculum Enhancement Institute, Fall and Spring 2001
  • Consultant on an NIH SEPA grant from the Minnesota Science Museum: “Science Education Partnership-Emerging Infectious Disease”, 2004 (funded); currently consulting on exhibit design
Other education related professional activities
  • Working group member, Reinvention Center-NSF initiative to assess writing as a means to promote critical thinking in the STEM disciplines, 2008-*
  • Liaison for the College of Biological Sciences effort to develop a Writing Enriched Curriculum (as part of a Bush Foundation grant awarded to the U of MN)
  • Consultant, Liberal Education Reform; University of Arkansas, Fullbright College, Dec. 2008*

Current grants

  • NSF-TUES II (Transforming Undergraduate Education) application, prepared in collaboration with colleagues at Duke University, Morgan State and UNC-CH: Understanding the Role of Writing in Promoting Learning and Engagement in Diverse Undergraduate Thesis Writers; DUE-1225608 (2013-15). Role: Co-Principal Investigator

Recent grants

  • NIH: Reovirus sigma 3 protein: structural and regulatory functions. 2005-2010, $1,125,000 total direct costs.
  • NSF REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates): Microbiology—From Atoms to Ecosystems at the University of Minnesota (2008-2011). This grant was focused on offering undergraduate research experiences at the University of Minnesota to under-represented minority students from other institutions around the country.