Wigdahl graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and received his doctorate in microbiology from the Medical College of Wisconsin, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Microbiology at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey. He held numerous appointments there, ultimately becoming a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. While at Penn State, he served as director of the interdepartmental Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, and co-director of the Penn State Life Sciences Consortium Integrative Biosciences Graduate Program in Molecular Medicine.
Wigdahl's service to the scientific community has been exemplary during the course of his career. He reviews more than 75 manuscripts annually for over 50 peer-reviewed journals, including many of the leading journals in virology, infectious disease, immunology, therapeutics, cancer biology, neuroscience and molecular biology. He also serves as senior associate editor of the Journal of NeuroVirology, associate editor of the International Journal of Genomics and a member of the editorial board for Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Wigdahl has served on more than 60 NIH review panels and numerous review panels for foundations and societies, and served on the NeuroAIDS and other End-organ Disease Review Group 5 from 2004-2008, chairing the committee in 2008. He is a member of 18 professional societies, and lectures to medical students, graduate students, and undergraduate students at Drexel University, Drexel University College of Medicine and Temple University. In 2009, Wigdahl was awarded the Drexel University College of Medicine Julian Marsh, MD, Faculty Scholar Award for excellence in scientific research, outstanding teaching skills, and consistent high quality leadership.
Among Wigdahl's research interests are human T cell leukemia virus type I, the first tumor virus shown to infect humans and the causative agent of many leukemias; the development of therapeutic strategies to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, including broad-spectrum, nontoxic "microbicides"; the identification of viral markers predictive of AIDS-related neurologic disease; and the identification of viral and cellular factors involved in the progression of neuro-AIDS.
Wigdahl has displayed a deep commitment to undergraduate student research training, medical and graduate education, and postdoctoral training, as well as research staff and junior faculty development. He has trained 26 PhD degree students (including 4 MD/PhD students), 19 MS students, 30 MD students, 16 postdoctoral fellows, 23 technicians, 110 undergraduate students, and 13 junior faculty, and has provided research rotations to more than 80 graduate students. He also serves as the executive director of the PhD/MS program in Molecular Medicine and two new MS graduate programs in Infectious Disease and Immunology.
Wigdahl, his students, and colleagues have published 907 abstracted presentations, and 156 full-length publications, with 15 papers currently submitted for publication or in revision. He has been involved in raising more than $45 million dollars in extramural support from NIH, foundations and other government and industry sources. Wigdahl has given more than 130 seminars worldwide and is funded by R01 grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.