I am bi and I am a virologist.//
I started in science like most: as a kid with hands stained from soil and puddles and crushed grass. Thirty years later, I have a B.A. in Biology, an M.S. in aquatic physiology, and am a Ph.D. candidate in Microbiology. My past STEM work focused on aquaculture, animal husbandry, and field-based fisheries research (AMA about shark and stingray biology!) Now, as a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University, I study a pathogenic virus that infects intestinal cells primarily in infants. I want to understand how viruses organize their genetic material as they manufacture new copies of themselves. Rotavirus, the focus of my current research, is a master of genetic coordination; after infection, rotavirus produces, sorts, and packages roughly a dozen individual RNA molecules into each new viral particle. This is critical to viral function because each virus needs all 11 genetic ‘blueprints’ to go on and infect new cells. How is this process coordinated? My research focuses on untranslated regions (UTRs) and RNA secondary structures to figure out how rotavirus controls genome packaging.