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.
As a scientist, I study the interactions between viruses and the cells they infect at the microscopic level using advanced microscopy approaches. 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 that would have been almost impossible to identify and characterize otherwise. My experience is almost exclusively on mammalian RNA viruses (reoviruses, hepatitis A, hepatitis C, Zika virus, dengue virus) in diverse cell types and currently continuing this journey as a Research Associate within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.