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Tamara J. O'Connor, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Tamara J. O'Connor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry

Research Interests: Molecular dissection of host-pathogen interactions and the evolution of virulence strategies in natural reservoirs


Dr. Tamara O’Connor is an assistant professor of biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. O’Connor studies the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which are known for causing Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia in people with compromised immune systems.

She received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from McMaster University. She also earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry and microbiology from McMaster University. Dr. O’Connor completed her postdoctoral work in microbial pathogenesis at Tufts University.

Dr. O’Connor serves on the Graduate Student Admissions Committee in the Johns Hopkins Department of Biological Chemistry.

She is a member of American Society for Microbiology. Her work has been recognized with the McMaster University Research Travel Award and the Karl Freeman Award for Outstanding Seminar at McMaster University. more


  • Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry

Departments / Divisions



  • B.Sc., McMaster University (Canada) (1998)
  • Ph.D., McMaster University (Canada) (2005)

Additional Training

Tufts University, Medford, MA, 2013

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. O’Connor is researching the molecular dissection of host-pathogen interactions and the evolution of virulence strategies in natural reservoirs.

The outcome of most parasitic relationships is decided by an elaborate series of events involving hundreds of proteins. Understanding this interaction requires the analysis of the molecular mechanisms operating in both organisms and the causal relationships acting at the interface between them.

Dr. O’Connor also examines how L. pneumophila is able to manipulate host cell processes to establish growth within its host and the impact of its interaction with protozoa on the evolution of these virulence mechanisms. L. pneumophila is a bacterial pathogen. In its natural environment of fresh water and soil, L. pneumophila is a parasite of a diverse array of amoebae and ciliated protozoa. When contaminated water aerosols are inhaled by humans, L. pneumophila replicates in alveolar macrophages causing an often fatal form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease.


The O’Connor lab studies the molecular basis of infectious disease using Legionella pneumophila pathogenesis as a model system.

Selected Publications

De Jesus DA, O'Connor TJ, Isberg RR. "Analysis of Legionella infection using RNA interference in Drosophila cells." Methods Mol Biol 954:251-264. 2013.

O'Connor TJ, Boyd D, Dorer M, Isberg RR. "Analysis of aggravating genetic interactions allows a solution to redundancy in a bacterial pathogen." Science 338:1440-1444. 2012.

Choy A, Dancourt J, Mugo B, O'Connor TJ, Isberg RR, Melia T, Roy CR. "Autophagy inhibition by irreversible deconjugation of Atg8 proteins from membranes." Science 338:1072-1076. 2012.

O'Connor TJ, Adepoju Y, Boyd D, Isberg RR. "Minimization of the Legionella pneumophila genome reveals chromosomal regions involved in host range expansion." Proc Natl Acad Sci 108:14733-14740. 2011.

Huang L, Boyd D, Amyot WM, Hempstead AD, Luo ZQ, O'Connor TJ, Chen C, Machner M, Montminy T, Isberg RR. "The E Block motif is associated with Legionella pneumophila translocated substrates." Cell Microbiol 13:227-245. 2011.

Activities & Honors


  • N. Desborough Award for Outstanding Performance in Mathematics, Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute, 1994 - 1995
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, McMaster University, 2003 - 2004
  • McMaster University Research Travel Award Department of Biochemistry, McMaster University, 2003 - 2004
  • Karl Freeman Award for Outstanding Seminar Department of Biochemistry, McMaster University, 2000 - 2001
  • Graduation with Distinction, McMaster University
  • Postdoctoral Seminar Series, Tufts University School of Medicine, 2005 - 2013
  • Natalie V. Zucker Research Fellowship, Tufts University School of Medicine, 2009 - 2011
  • Scholarship University Entrance Scholarship (declined), University of Western Ontario, 1994 - 1995
  • University Entrance Scholarship, McDonald’s Restaurants Inc. Scholarship, 1994 - 1995


  • American Society for Microbiology, 2007
  • Events Committee, 1998 - 1999
    McMaster University
  • Let’s Talk Science, 1998 - 1999
    McMaster University
  • Seminar Series Review Committee, 2000 - 2001
    McMaster University

Professional Activities

  • Graduate Student Admissions Committee, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2013 - 2014
    Department of Biological Chemistry
  • Research Internship, Laboratory of Dr. Gerry D. Wright Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences McMaster University, 1997 - 1998

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