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James J. Pestka

James J. Pestka

University Distinguished Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition / Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

517-355-8474, ext. 125

Research Interests:
Dr. Pestka has focused on understanding mechanisms by which environmental toxicants and food constituents modulate innate and acquired immune function.  His lab’s current goal is to learn how to exploit dietary modulation of lipid metabolism to prevent toxicant-triggered autoimmune disease. Prior research projects focus on molecular mechanisms by which natural and anthropogenic chemicals, microbes (microbial toxins and probiotics), lipids (omega-3 fatty acids) and herbal supplements modulate the immune response in positive and negative fashion. Dr. Pestka’s work has been used for safety/risk assessment, prevention of human exposure to harmful chemicals, and the design of novel diets/foods.

Educational Background:
State University of New York College of Buffalo, B.A., Biology, 1975 
Cornell University, Ph.D., Microbiology with Minors in Immunology and Biochemistry, 1979

Selected Professional Activities:
Dr. Pestka's honors include: Robert J. Rubin Student Mentor Award, Risk Assessment and Mechanism Specialty Sections, SOT; Promotion to University Distinguished  Professor at MSU, 2011; Visiting Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong (2010-2012); Distinguished Faculty Award, MSU, 1999; Distinguished Faculty Award, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), 1996; Elected Fellow of Academy of Microbiology, 1995; Elected to Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, 1995; Harvey W. Wiley Award, Association of Official Analytical Chemists, 1993; Junior Faculty Meritorious Research Award, Michigan State University Chapter of Sigma Xi, 1992; Carl G. Smith Award, MSU CANR, 1992; Samuel Cate Prescott Award, Institute of Food Technologists, 1988;  Teacher-Scholar Award, MSU, 1987; Wise and Helen Burroughs Lectureship, Nutritional Sciences Council of Iowa State University, 1986; Young Faculty International Travel Award, MSU (CANR), 1986; Dean's Award for Outstanding Teaching in Microbiology, New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 1978; Presented for distinguished performance as Teaching Assistant in the Dept. of Microbiology. Undergraduate: New York State Regents Scholarship, Magna Cum Laude.

Dr. Pestka is a faculty trainer for the NIEHS training grant.


Dr. Pestka’s research career has been undergirded by a network of extensive and highly productive collaborations reflected in over 295 publications with coauthors from 15 units at Michigan State and 94 national and international labs. A recent Web of Science Citation Report indicates his h-index is 53.  Dr. Pestka’s lab has published over 295  articles in several journals including Toxicological Sciences, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Toxicology, Journal of Nutrition, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry and Journal of Food Protection. Dr. Pestka ranks first in the number of Papers among 9,727 authors in mycotoxin field (read more).

For a full list of papers and presentations through NCBI, please visit:

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Laboratory Trainees: