Stephanie Cumberworth – PhD Student, Kohl Lab
Tell me about your background/ Why did you get into this field of research?
I completed my undergraduate studies in Microbiology with Virology at The University of Leeds. During this time I spent a year at The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR, now part of The Francis Crick Institute) working in the department of Molecular Structure, studying the self-association properties of a retroviral capsid protein. It was at the NIMR that I decided that I found my love for research, but also that structural biology wasn’t for me. My fascination with emerging viruses and arboviruses (arthropod-borne viruses) peaked during my final year of undergraduate studies – around the time I was searching for a PhD position. That was when I found the CVR, which includes arboviral research as a dedicated theme. I now work in the Kohl group on Zika virus.
What are you working on?
My PhD research is focussed on how Zika virus interacts with different cell types in our body. Zika virus is a mosquito transmitted virus which has been linked to neurological complications, most notably in new-borns. I have been fortunate enough to collaborate with neuro-immunologists at the University of Glasgow on projects involving a ‘brain in a dish’. The ‘brain in a dish’ is a collection of all the major cell types of the central nervous system, interacting with each other similar to how they would in the brain. Using this system we can start to tease apart how Zika virus might be causing some of these neurological symptoms. For more information see a recent paper on this work https://actaneurocomms.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40478-017-0450-8
Why is world mosquito day important?
Over 1/3 of the world’s population is at risk from infections transmitted by mosquitos. It’s important to communicate research targeting these infections, particularly to raise awareness of projects which require community engagement.