Steven Varga to join St. Jude Graduate School as new Dean


Well-respected virologist and NIH study-section chair tapped to lead graduate school 

Photo of Steven Varga

Steven Varga, Ph.D., joins St. Jude from the University of Iowa, where he held a number of leadership roles.

Steven Varga, Ph.D., will become the second dean to lead the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, a unique world-class interdisciplinary environment bridging basic and translational research efforts to advance cures for pediatric catastrophic diseases.

Varga joins St. Jude from the University of Iowa, where he served in a number of leadership roles, including associate dean of Academic Affairs and Graduate Student Development, professor of Microbiology and Immunology and professor of Pathology. He also previously served as the director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology. In his role as associate dean in the Graduate College he oversaw both the Academic Affairs Office and the Grad Success Center, which supports graduate students’ professional, academic and personal success.

“Steven will be a tremendous asset to this institution, and we believe he will be instrumental in the continued growth of the graduate school,” said J. Paul Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Board of Trustees at the graduate school. He is also the Scientific Director and an executive vice president at St. Jude.

Varga’s appointment follows a nine-month-long search led by a well-respected executive search firm that guided a selection committee composed of graduate school employees, St. Jude leaders and the institution’s Board of Trustees.

“I am excited to lead the Graduate School in this next chapter of its evolution,” said Varga, who started at St. Jude last month. “The research being done here is groundbreaking, and I’m honored to help foster training the next generation of scientific leaders on the same campus where researchers are working to advance the study and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases.”  

In addition to his role as dean, Varga will become a member of the Department of Infectious Diseases.

Varga joined the University of Iowa in 2003 and led an independent research program focusing on virus-specific T lymphocytes in mediating immunity and immunopathology during viral infections, with particular focus on respiratory viruses, including RSV, influenza A virus, and SARS-CoV-2. In this role, he mentored more than a dozen graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and served on more than 50 graduate student dissertation committees.

Varga completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Virginia after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame.

The St. Jude Graduate School welcomed its inaugural class of PhD students to campus in July 2017. The Master of Global Child Health program launched in July 2019. A Master of Science program in Clinical Investigation was developed in July 2021.