Skip to main content
head shot of Virginia Weis

Virginia M. Weis

OSU Distinguished Professor
Department of Integrative Biology
College of Science

Virginia M. Weis

OSU Distinguished Professor
Department of Integrative Biology
College of Science



I have spent my entire career as faculty in Integrative Biology, starting as an assistant professor in 1996. I served as Head of Integrative Biology for nine years from 2011-2020. Broadly, I am a marine physiologist with a career-long focus on coral-algal symbiosis. I have instructed thousands of undergraduate students in introductory biology, invertebrate biology, and the biology of symbiosis. My group has produced over 100 publications, and I have mentored and trained dozens of graduate students and postdocs and over 100 undergraduates.


  • Postdoc, Stanford University, 1993-1996.
  • Postdoc, University of Southern California, 1990-1993.
  • PhD, Biology, UCLA, 1989.
  • B.S., Biology, Yale University, 1984.


My group examines the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie coral symbiosis, both the healthy onset and maintenance of the partnership as well as symbiosis dysfunction, known as dysbiosis, underlying coral bleaching. Our research is foundational to building an understanding of the basic functioning of the symbiosis that underpins the coral reef ecosystem. Current efforts to develop solutions to coral reef decline, such as assisted evolution and other genetic engineering approaches are based in part on the foundational information that we have discovered in our group. Much of the work performed by the group is using the symbiotic sea anemone Exaiptasia diaphana (known as Aiptasia), which is a powerful model system for the study of coral symbiosis. Our current focus is in examining the role of host innate immunity in symbiosis regulation and inter-partner regulation of growth during host development.


I am lucky to be able to teach undergraduates in my areas of expertise: symbiosis and invertebrates.

Courses Taught

  • BI 358 – Symbioses and the Environment. Overview of the diversity of mutualistic symbioses and their roles in the natural environment. Integrative approach, from ecosystem to molecule, to the examination of certain key mutualisms.
  • Z 361 – Invertebrate Biology. Exploration of the diversity and evolutionary relationships among major invertebrate phyla with an emphasis on morphological features, functional aspects, and life history for each phylum.
  • Z 362 – Invertebrate Biology Laboratory. Morphology and anatomy of representative invertebrates introduced in Z 361; diversity within phyla. Study is by dissections and both microscopic and macroscopic examination.
  • IB 511 – Integrative Biology Graduate Student Orientation. Introduction to the graduate program in Integrative Biology and at OSU in general. Class introduces students to various skills for success in graduate school and beyond. Exploration of career options for those holding a degree in IB are explored.


  • Eminence in Research Award, International Coral Reef Society, 2022.
  • Named Dr. Russ and Dolores Gorman Faculty Scholar, OSU, 2020.
  • Named Distinguished Professor, OSU, 2019.
  • Milton Harris Award in Basic Research, College of Science, OSU, 2013.
  • Fredrick H. Horne Award for sustained excellence in teaching science, College of Science, OSU, 2009.
  • Women of Achievement Award for extraordinary achievement in furthering the advancement of the women of Oregon, OSU, 2008.
  • Loyd Carter Award for outstanding and inspirational teaching, College of Science, OSU, 2000.
  • Thomas Sugihara Award, young faculty research award, College of Science, OSU, 2000.