Cells form the basis of all living cells. Whether is a bacterium, a fungus, a blue whale, or a large sequoia tree – all organisms are made up of at least one cell. Their components regulate all aspects of life as we know it and the most basic categorization of organisms relies on different cell types. Within a multicellular organism, cellular diversity provides specialization for different tasks and together they orchestrate overall organismal function and survival. Nonetheless, our bodies are continuously exposed to different kinds of infectious agents that alter the physiology of our cells in many, many ways.
Viruses are small subcellular agents that are unable to multiply outside a host cell and are thus obligate parasites. They can essentially infect all forms of life and have shaped several aspects of natural selection throughout evolution. Due to their extreme dependence for cellular factors to replicate, targeting viral infections through highly-selective antiviral agents has proven to be challenging.
My expertise lies in the immune interactions between mammalian RNA viruses and the cells they infect at the microscopic level. I believe that understanding how these intracellular parasites re-purpose host cell factors for their benefit can similarly teach us about principles of cell biology in ways that would have been almost impossible to identify and characterize otherwise.
One key aspect of how our cells—and thus our bodies—defend themselves against microbes is through communication. Input riggers, alert systems, decoding, and output actions are all shared features of immune responses and interpersonal relationships. Studying such microscopic systems have taught me new strategies for effective communication beyond the laboratory. As such, my career has shifted from the laboratory to science communication. I am currently a freelance writer, manage the social media platforms for the Molecular Biology of the Cell journal and the American Scientist magazine, as well as facilitator of workshops and seminars on social media for scientists and principles of virology.