Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the start of the summer and a time of endless opportunity. The short summer in Madison has arrived (with a fury this year - it's in the mid-90s!). I'm feeling this opportunity even more acutely this weekend as we are about two months away from starting a year-long sabbatical at the Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne with Shelby O'Connor. I am very excited to forge new collaborations with colleagues in Australia and Asia. Our first stop in August will be the University of Tokyo, where we will visit Tetsuro Matano. This will be my first time back in Tokyo (outside of the airport) since I was a high school exchange student 25 years ago.

It will then be on to Melbourne. I am honored to have been named a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow by the University of Melbourne. As part of this program, we will have the chance to interact with students and the community; we will be living in the Trinity College and Queen's College Residential Colleges throughout our stay. I am hoping to study simian arteriviruses, pegiviruses, Zika virus, and HIV/SIV with colleagues in Melbourne and beyond. In September, I will be giving an invited talk at the Australasian HIV & AIDS Conference in Sydney.

While I have never taken a sabbatical before, the most common question I'm asked is, "what will happen to your lab while you are away?" I expect that my lab will, through a combination of videoconferences (with Owl cameras that Amelia has nicknamed 'the sabbaticowls'), Slack, email, and strong experienced leadership from my senior scientists, to continue being as productive as it has been in the past. There will be a few logistical changes:

  • I do not intend to hire additional high school or undergraduate researchers
  • I do not plan on accepting rotating graduate students this fall

It will be hard to leave the lab while we are in the midst of so many interesting projects. Some highlights include:

  • Continuing to study the effects of Zika virus in pregnancy
  • Characterizing how gender and route of HIV/SIV infection alters the gut microbiome in the days following infection
  • Sequencing entire macaque monkey genomes with ultralong Oxford Nanopore sequences
  • Expanding whole genome and whole exome sequencing as a replacement for PCR-based MHC genotyping
  • Testing how often monkeys in the wild have antibodies to simian arteriviruses
  • Defining the cells that get infected with simian pegiviruses

As happens in the summer, it is a bittersweet time. Matt, who worked with me as an undergraduate and technician, had his last day on Friday. I'm accepted to see him move on to med school later this summer. Luis, an undergrad who just graduated, will be starting at Pfizer in a few weeks. And Laurel, a technician, left to start a position as a phlebotomist.

Special thanks to Mariel for continuing to operate lab twitter. I quit personal Twitter and Facebook as a New Years Resolution and have deputized Mariel to work the lab account.