Cynthia M McMillen

  • Research Assistant Professor
  • Faculty in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology

Cynthia M McMillen, PhD, is joining IDM as a Research Assistant Professor (RAP). Dr. McMillen received her BS in biology from West Virginia University (WVU) and proceeded to pursue her PhD in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis in the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at WVU. Here she worked in the Infectious Diseases Transmission Program at CDC/NIOSH, where she studied the effects of environmental factors on aerosol transmission of influenza viruses and developed an anti-influenza therapy based on RNA interference. She spent four years as post-doctoral scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Amy Hartman and will continue her RAP position under Dr. Hartman’s guidance.


Dr. McMillen’s current research focuses on understanding the mechanism vertical transmission of Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV). RVFV is a mosquito-transmitted virus that causes severe disease in ruminant livestock; humans can also contract RVF. Although ruminant livestock and humans share many of the same disease manifestations (hepatitis, encephalitis, ocular disease) of RVF, livestock have an extremely high rate of miscarriages whereas a direct association between RVFV infection and miscarriages has not been described in humans. Dr. McMillen developed the first model of congenital RVF in rats to serve as an intermediate model to study the cellular and molecular mechanism(s) of vertical transmission of humans and ruminants. This model produces still-borne pups with signs of hemorrhaging, necrosis and fetal hydrops, all characteristics of congenital RVF observed in livestock. This model will further serve to understand the host’s immune response to infection and to screen vaccine strains for teratogenic effects or disease protection against RVFV and other related bunyaviruses.


Overall, Dr. McMillen’s research efforts focus on the One Health Approach (OHA) toward understanding infectious diseases. OHA is the understanding that human health is often dictated by the health of animals and the surrounding environment. Having a sound understanding of environmental cues and the transmissibility between arbovectors or other animals to humans is essential for developing interventions that prevent human infections.


2016 | West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV | Doctor of Philosophy - Biomedical Sciences, Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis

2010 | West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV | Bachelor of Science - Biology

Post-graduate Training

2019-2021 | University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA | GSPH IDM & Center for Vaccine Research | Post-doctoral Scholar

2017-2019 | University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA | GSPH IDM & Center for Vaccine Research | Post-doctoral Associate

Post-graduate Training Grants

2019-2021 | NIH Post-doctoral Training Grant (T32) in Immunology and Infectious Diseases (5T32AI060525-14) | University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA | SOM MMG; PI JoAnne Flynn, PhD | Post-doctoral Scholar

Undergraduate Laboratory Training

2009-2010 | Undergraduate Research Assistant | West Virginia University | Biology Department, PI: Rita Rio, PhD

Summer 2009 | Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow | University of Cincinnati Children's Hospital | Department of Immunology, PI: Kasper Hoebe, PhD


Mentoring undergraduate and graduate students is a high priority for Dr. McMillen, whether it be in the classroom or one-on-one mentoring in the laboratory setting. Past and ongoing teaching experiences include:

Fall 2017-2022 | Guest Lecturer - "Influenza Pathogenesis" | IDM2004: Viral Pathogenesis, University of Pittsburgh GSPH

Spring 2019-2022 | Guest Lecturer - "Picornaviruses and Reverse Genetics Systems" | IDM2002: Molecular Virology, University of Pittsburgh GSPH

Fall 2021 | Guest Lecturer - "Bunyavirales: Viral Hemhorragic Fevers" | MICB782: Advanced Microbiology, West Virginia University, School of Medicine

Fall 2019 | Facilitator | MSMI3280: Immunology of Infectious Diseases, University of Pittsburgh SOM

Spring 2016 | Facilitator, Self-directed Learning - "Vaccines" | MICB801: Medical Microbiology for Medical Students, West Virginia University SOM

Fall 2015 | Facilitator, Patient-Oriented Problem-Solving Class - "Tetanus Immunity" | MICB702: Medical Microbiology for Dental Students, West Virginia University SOD

Spring 2014 | Guest Lecturer - "Microbes and Cancer Diagnosis/Therapy" | BMS736: Immunology & Microbial Pathogenesis, West Virginia University BMS

2012-2013 | Laboratory Teaching Assistant| MICB323: Medical Microbiology Laboratory, West Virginia University

Selected Publications
  1. Ma H, Albe JR, Gilliland T,McMillen CM, Gardner CL, Boyles DA, Cottle EL, Dunn MD, Lundy JD, Salama N, O’Malley KJ, Pandrea I, Teichert T, Barrick S, Klimstra WB, Hartman AL, Reed DS. Long-term persistence of viral RNA and inflammation in the CNS of macaques exposed to aerosolized Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. PLOS Pathogens; 2022; 18(6): e1009946.

    2.&nbsp &nbsp Ganaie SS, Schwarz MM*,McMillen CM*, Price D*, Feng A*, Albe JR*, Wang W*, Miersch S, Orvedahl A, Cole AR, Sentmanat MF, Mishra N, Boyles DA, Koenig ZT, Kujawa MR, Demers MA, Hoehl RM, Moyle A, Wagner N, Stubbs SH, Cardarelli L, Teyra J, McElroy A, Gross ML, Whelan SPJ, Doench J, Cui X, Brett TJ, Sidhu SS, Virgin HW, Egawa T, Leung DW, Amarasinghe GK#, and Hartman AL#. Lrp1 is a host entry factor for Rift Valley Fever Virus. Cell; 2021; 184(20):5163-5178.e24. * co-second author,#co-corresponding authors.


  2. McMillen CM, Hartman AL. Rift Valley fever: a threat to pregnant women hiding in plain sight. Journal of Virology. 2021; JVI.01394-19.PMID: 33597209

  3. Albe JR, Ma H, Gilliland TH,McMillen CM, Gardner CL, Boyles DA, Cottle EL, Dunn MD, Lundy JD, O’Malley KJ, Salama N, Walters AW, Pandrea I, Teichert T, Klimstra WB, Reed DS, Hartman, AL. Physiological and immunological changes in the brain associated with severe lethal eastern equine encephalitis virus in macaques. PLOS Pathogens, 2021; 17(2):e1009308.PMID: 33534855
  4. Boyles DA, Schwarz MM, Albe JA,McMillen CM, O’Malley KJ, Reed D, Hartman AL. Development of Rift Valley fever encephalitis in rats is mediated by early infection of olfactory epithelium and neuroinvasion across the cribriform plate. Journal of General Virology, 2020; DOI 10.1099/jgv.0.001522.PMID: 33231535
  5. Hartman AL, Nambulli S,McMillen CM, White AG, Tilson-Lunel NL, Albe JR, Cottle E, Dunn M, Frye J, Gilliland TH, Olsen EL, O’Malley KJ, Schwarz MM, Tomko JA, Walker RC, Mengying X, Hartman MS, Klein E, Scanga CA, Flynn JL, Klimstra WB, McElroy WK, Reed DS, Duprex WP. SARS-CoV-2 infection of African green monkeys results in mild respiratory disease discernible by PET/CT imaging and prolonged shedding. PLoS Pathogens, 2020;16(9):e1008903.PMID: 32946524
  6. Klimstra WB, Tilson-Lunel NL, Nambulli S, Boslett J,McMillen CM, Gilliland TH, Dunn MD, Sun C, Wheeler SE, Wells A, Hartman, AL, McElroy AK, Reed DS, Rennick LJ, Duprex WP. SARS-CoV-2 growth, furin-cleavage-site adaptation and neutralization using serum from acutely infected, hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Journal of General Virology, 2020; DOI 10.1099/jgv.0.001481.PMID: 32821033
  7. Albe JA, Boyles DA, Walters A, Kujawa MR,McMillen CM, Reed D, Hartman AL. Neutrophil and macrophage influx into the central nervous system are inflammatory components of lethal Rift Valley Fever encephalitis in rats. PLOS Pathogens. 2019; 15(6): e1007833.PMID: 31220182
  8. McMillen CM, Arora N, Boyles DA, Albe JR, Kujawa MR, Bonadio JF, Coyne CB, Hartman AL. Vertical transmission of Rift Valley fever virus in late-gestation pregnant rats results in fetal infection and demise. Science Advances 2018;4(12):eaau9812.PMID: 30525107
  9. Blachere FM, Noti JD, Shaffer RE, Beezhold DH,McMillen CM, Fisher EM, Lindsley WG. Assessment of Influenza Virus Exposure and Recovery from Contaminated Surgical Masks and N95 Respirators. Journal of Virological Methods. 2018;260:98-106.PMID: 30029810
  10. McMillen CM, Hartman AL. Rift Valley fever in animals and humans: Current perspectives. Antiviral Research. 2018;156:29-37.PMID: 29857007
  11. Wonderlich E, Caroline A,McMillen CM, Walters A, Reed D, Barratt-Boyes S, Hartman A. Peripheral blood biomarkers of disease outcome in a monkey model of Rift Valley Fever encephalitis. Journal of Virology 2018;92(3):e01662-17.PMID: 29118127
  12. McMillen CM, Noti JD, Blachere FM, Othumpangat S, Kashon ML, Beezhold DH. Inhibition of influenza A virus matrix and nonstructural gene expression using RNA interference. Virology 2016;497:171-84.PMID: 27474950
  13. Lindsley WG, Blachere FM, Beezhold DH, Thewlis RE, Noorbakhsh B, Othumpangat S, Goldsmith WT,McMillen CM, Andrew ME, Burrell CN, Noti JD. Viable Influenza A Virus in Airborne Particles Expelled during Coughs vs. Exhalations. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. 2016;10(5): 404–13.PMID: 26991074
  14. Othumpangat S, Noti JD,McMillen CM, Beezhold DH. ICAM-1 regulates the survival of influenza virus in lung epithelial cells during the early stages of infection. Virology 2016;487:85-94.PMID: 26499045
  15. Noti JD, Blachere FM,McMillen CM, Lindsley WG, Kashon ML, Slaughter DR, Beezhold DH. High humidity leads to loss of infectious influenza virus from simulated coughs. PLoS One 2013;8(2):e57485.PMID: 23460865
  16. Noti JD, Lindsley WG, Blachere FM, Cao G, Kashon ML, Thewlis RE,McMillen CM, King KP, Szalajda JC, Beezhold DH. Detection of infectious influenza virus in cough aerosols generated in a simulated patient examination room. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2012;11:1569-77.PMID: 22460981
  17. Snyder AK,McMillen CM, Wallenhorst P, Rio RVM. The phylogeny of sodalis-like symbionts as reconstructed using surface encoding loci. FEMS Microbiology Letters 2014;317(2):143-51.PMID: 21251054