Betsy Kleba
Betsy Kleba, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Ph.D. Univ Calif Berkeley

Areas of Experience

  • Microbial ecology
  • Bioremediation
  • Extremophiles
  • Microbial pathogenesis
  • About Betsy Kleba, Ph.D.



    Dr. Kleba has built a career exploring the many facets of microbiology. After earning a Ph.D. in infectious diseases and immunity from U.C. Berkeley, Dr. Kleba continued her work at an NIH research facility dedicated to the study of microbial pathogens.  Now as an associate professor at Westminster College she runs an undergraduate research program that supports student exploration of microbial ecology.  Recent projects include isolation and identification of hydrocarbon degrading bacteria as a potential bioremediation tool, an interdisciplinary investigation of the microbiology and geochemistry of Bonneville Salt Flats, and exploration of the relationship between microbial community assemblage and plant productivity in urban agriculture.  Dr. Kleba is dedicated to student learning and uses active and inclusive course designs and a research team model that focuses on student productivity to foster student success.  As a pre-professional health advisor she also works with Dr. Robyn Hyde (chemistry) to mentor students pursuing careers in medicine upon graduation.


    2015-present   Associate Professor, Biology, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT

    2010-2015       Assistant Professor, Biology, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT

    2008                Adjunct Instructor, University of Montana, Missoula, MT

    2006-2010       Postdoctoral Research Associate, NIH, Laboratory of Intracellular Parasites

    2000-2006       Research and teaching assistant, University of California, Berkeley


    Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT

    Primary Investigator (2011-Present) Biology Department

    Research summary: Microbial ecology and the interrelationship between microbial community composition, microbiology physiology, and local environments including Bonneville Salt Flats and urban agriculture sights along Wasatch front.

     National Institutes of Health, NIAID    

    Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2010) Laboratory of Intracellular Parasites

    Research summary: Utilized mariner-based transposon mutagenesis to identify putative virulence factors in the obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen Rickettsia rickettsii.

     University of California, Berkeley       

    Doctoral research student (2000-2006) Program in Infectious Diseases & Immunity

    Research summary: Utilized scFv libraries to identify antigens exposed on the surface of Chlamydia for vaccine candidate identification. Developed selective permeabilization and metabolic labeling protocol to detect chlamydial virulence proteins that localize within the host cell cytosol.


    Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT - Biology Department Courses taught:

    ·   Bio111 - Clinical Microbiology

    ·   Bio131 - Human Genetics (LE)

    ·   Bio202 – Organisms & Evolution (guest lecturer on Prokaryotes)

    ·   Bio205 - Introduction to Cell Biology

    ·   Bio303 - Microbiology

    ·   Bio402 - Immunology

    ·   Bio420 - Biology Senior Seminar

    ·   Bio430 - Undergraduate Research

    ·   Envi/Honors 300 - Environment & the Space of Art

    University of Montana, Missoula, MT - Division of Biological Sciences Courses taught:

    ·   Cell & Molecular Biology

    University of California, Berkeley, CA - Program in Infectious Diseases & Immunity Courses taught:

    ·   Integrity & Conduct in Research

    ·   Microbial Pathogenesis Graduate Seminar


    2015-2016 American Society for Microbiology-National Science Foundation: LINK-UFRI fellow (Leaders Inspiring Networks and Knowledge-Undergraduate Research Faculty Initiative).

    2015 Edward L. Burton Foundation research instrumentation grant to enhance undergraduate education and research in microbiology at Westminster College - $3,000

    2014-2015 Utah NASA EPSCoR (PI, Kleba & Bowen)

    Geomicrobiology of the Bonneville Salt Flats:  Interdeisciplinary astrobiological characterization of microbial and geologic relationships in an extreme earth environment - $25,000

     2014-2015 National Science Foundation (PI, Black)   

    Major Research Instrumentation Grant for acquisition of an ICP-MS for novel undergraduate research and training - $245,300

     2013-2014 Myriad Genetics Excellence in Learning Leadership Award (PI, Kleba)

    Primary survey of microbial life inhabiting Bonneville Salt Flats - $20,000

      2006 Brian Ridpath Award

    For excellence in the seminar presentation of doctoral dissertation research. U.C. Berkeley

     2006 Margaret Beattie Award

    For excellence in research within the laboratory sciences. U.C. Berkeley

     2005 Albert & Mildred Krueger Memorial Scholarship

    U.C. Berkeley

     2004 Infectious Diseases & Immunity Leadership Award

    For outstanding contribution to the Graduate Group in Infectious Diseases & Immunity. U.C. Berkeley

     2000 U.C. Berkeley Graduate Division Fellowship

    U.C. Berkeley


    International Society for Extremophiles (2012-present)

    National Association of Advisors for Health Professions (2011-Present)

    American Society for Cell Biology (2000-Present)

    American Society for Microbiology (1999-Present)

             ASM-Intermountain Branch member (2010-present)


    Westminster College

    2015-2016        Westminster faculty chair

    2014, 2015       summer undergraduate STEM student research meeting co-coordinator

    2014-present    Ronald E. McNair STEM scholar research mentor

    2011-2015        STEM faculty representative to Liberal Education committee

    American Society of Microbiology - Intermountain Branch

    2015-2016 Alternate Counselor

    2014-2015 President

    2013-2014 President-elect


    Bonneville Salt Flats - Life in the Fast Lane.  American Society for Microbiology 115th general meeting.  Special session on contributions to extreme microbiology by female scientists.  New Orleans, LA. 31May2015.

    Small College Professor = Big Professional Opportunities. University of South Dakota – Sanford School of Medicine, Vermillion, S.D. Invited by graduate and professional student association 11July2014.

     Extremophiles – The Microbial Life of Utah’s Unique Geology. Intermountain Branch of the American Society of Microbiology annual meeting. Provo, UT. 8March2014.

     Microbial life inhabits Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, U.S.A. Halophiles International Conference. Storrs, CT. 23- 27June2013.

     Pushing the limits: Looking for Life in Extreme Environments. Forum for Questioning Minds. Salt Lake City, UT. 10March2013.

     From RML to a PUI: life as a college professor. Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, National Institutes of Health. Hamilton, MT. Invited by RML Post-doctoral fellows association, May2012.

     Going to Extremes: The Search for Life in Salt. Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, National Institutes of Health. Hamilton, MT. May2012.

     Academia: Negotiation and Transitioning. Panelist for 5th Annual NIH Career Symposium. Office of Intramural Training & Education, NIH, Bethesda, MD. May 2012.


    K. Mclean*, C.Clay, and B. Kleba.  The effects of ubanization on the genetic composition of microbial communities in agricultural soil.  Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. (2015) Seattle, WA.

    S. Tahan* and B. Kleba.  Looking for Life in the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. (2014) San Antonio, TX.

    B. B. Bowen, B. Kleba, J. Turner*, W. Ramming*. Sedimentology, mineralogy, geochemistry, and geomicrobiology of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Annual meeting of the Geological Society of America  (2014) Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

     G. Boogaerts, A. Moran-Reyna, J. R. Black, A. Shows, H. Minton, Z. Grace, C. Johnson*, N. Batty*, B. Kleba, J. A. Coker. Preliminary Characterization of the Microbial Community in the Bonneville Salt Flats. 10th International Congress on Extremophiles. (2014) Saint Petersburg, Russia.

     C. Rivera* and B. Kleba. Biodegradation of hydrocarbons by Great Salt Lake microorganisms. Intermountain Branch of American Society of Microbiology Annual Meeting. (2014) Provo, UT.

     A. Fratto* and B. Kleba. Life at the Extremes: Finding earthly analogs for potential life on Mars. Intermountain Branch of American Society of Microbiology Annual Meeting. (2014) Provo, UT.

     N. S. Batty*2, A. M. Roach*, C. E. Mulkey*, B. Kleba. Isolation & Identification of Hydrocarbon Metabolizing Microbes from Great Salt Lake. Intermountain Branch of American Society of Microbiology Annual Meeting. (2013) Pocatello, ID.

     L. Wolf*3, N. Batty*, C. Johnston*, A. Moran-Reyna, Z. Grace, A. Shows, H. Minton, L. Landen, J. A. Coker, B. Kleba. Identification of the Microbial Life on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Intermountain Branch of American Society of Microbiology Annual Meeting. (2013) Pocatello, ID.

     A. M. Roach*, N. S. Batty*, C. E. Mulkey*, B. Kleba. Isolation of Hydrocarbon-Degrading Extremely Halophilic Archaea from a Contaminated Hypersaline Environment. Friends of Great Salt Lake Issues Forum. (2012) Salt Lake City, UT.

     N. S. Batty*1, A. Roach*, C. Mulkey*, B. Kleba. Isolation of Hydrocarbon Metabolizing Microorganisms from the Great Salt Lake. Friends of Great Salt Lake Issues Forum. (2012) Salt Lake City, UT.

     B. Kleba and Ted Hackstadt. Toward Identification of Rickettsia rickettsii Type IV Secretion Effector Proteins. Banff International Meeting on Infectious Diseases. (2008) Banff, Alberta, Canada.

     B. Kleba and Ted Hackstadt. Characterization of Rickettsia rickettsii Type IV Secretion ATPase, VirB11. American Society for Rickettsiology. 21st General Meeting. (2007) Colorado Springs, Colorado.

     B. Kleba and R.S. Stephens. Chlamydia Circumvent Vacuolar Isolation by Acquiring Compounds Directly from Cell Cytosol. Cold Spring Harbor Meeting. Microbial Pathogenesis & Host Response. (2005) Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

     B. Kleba and R.S. Stephens. Chlamydia-Associated Fibronectin Does Not Enhance Infectivity, In Vitro. American Society for Microbiology. 104th General Meeting. (2004) New Orleans, Louisiana.

     B. Kleba, E.A. Lindquist, R.S. Stephens. Chlamydia-Specific scFv Antibody Binds Host Cell Fibronectin; B–260. American Society for Microbiology. 101st General Meeting. (2001) Orlando, Florida.

     * denotes undergraduate student researcher

    1 1st place award recognition for outstanding poster presentation by student at conference

    2 2nd place award recognition for outstanding poster presentation by student at conference

    3 3rd place award recognition for outstanding poster presentation by student at conference


    Bonnie K. Baxter, Jaimi K. Butler, Betsy KlebaWorth Your Salt: Halophiles in Education. In Advances in Understanding the Biology of Halophilic Bacteria and Archaea (ed. R.H. Vreeland), pp217-226. (2012) Springer.

     Tina R. Clark, Amanda M. Lackey, Betsy Kleba , Lonnie O. Driskell, Ericka I. Lutter, Craig Martens, David O. Wood, Ted Hackstadt. Transformation frequency of a mariner-based transposon in Rickettsia rickettsii. Journal of Bacteriology. (2011) 193: 4993-4995.

     Tina R. Clark, Damon W. Ellison, Betsy Kleba , Ted Hackstadt. Complementation ofRickettsia rickettsii RelA/SpoT restores a nonlytic plaque phenotype. Infection and Immunity. (2011) 79:1631-1637.

     Betsy Kleba , Tina R. Clark, Ericka I. Lutter, Damon W. Ellison, Ted Hackstadt. Disruption of the Rickettsia rickettsii Sca2 autotransporter inhibits actin-based motility. Infection and Immunity. (2010) 78:2240-2247.

     Betsy Kleba and Richard S. Stephens. Chlamydial Effector Proteins Localized to the Host Cell Cytoplasmic Compartment. Infection and Immunity (2008) 76: 4842-4850.

     Betsy Kleba and Richard S. Stephens. Bacteria-associated fibronectin does not enhance Chlamydia trachomatis infectivity in vitro. Microbial Pathogenesis (2005) 39: 53-55.

     Betsy Kleba, Erin Banta, Erika A. Lindquist, Richard S. Stephens. Recruitment of Mammalian Cell Fibronectin to the Surface of Chlamydia trachomatis. Infection and Immunity (2002) 70: 3935-3938.

     Erika Lindquist, James D. Marks, Betsy Kleba, Richard S. Stephens. Phage-display antibody detection of Chlamydia trachomatis-associated antigens. Microbiology (2002) 148: 443-351.