Raised in Grand Rapids, MI, I was destined to brew beer for a living. I was an avid all-grain brewer and pursued an undergraduate degree in microbiology and chemistry with the intent to obtain a Masters in Brewing. However, I quickly became enamored with evolution and whether or not viruses were living entities. Richard Dawkin's Selfish Gene was a huge inspiration.
I decided to intern in a molecular virology laboratory. This decision changed my life. I have since been a very undisciplined virologist, jumping from one virus to another. I have performed bench research on herpesviruses, adeno-associated viruses, papillomaviruses and flaviviruses. After years of tackling very esoteric projects that had little practical application, I decided to focus on some of the major questions in virology:
(1) How do viral pathogens emerge?
(2) How do viruses contribute to evolution?
(3) How do you develop an effective antiviral?
Due to my postdoctoral experience at Yale University, our current model system focuses on dengue virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that causes disease in hundreds of millions per year and kills thousands of children. Zika virus is a close relative the dengue virus. We will now use our skillset to understand how Zika virus replicates and causes disease.