- Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
We study the social lives of viruses. Viruses frequently infect the same host, leading to conflicts of interest over host resources. Viruses can evolve strategies to contend with co-infecting viruses, ranging from exploiting other viruses to synergistically interacting to increase their reproduction. Our research focuses on the evolution, ecology, and molecular mechanisms of these virus-virus interactions using genomics, experimental evolution, and environmental microbiology.
The lab currently works on genetic exchange in two segmented RNA viruses: Cystovirus phages that infect Pseudomonas bacteria and influenza A viruses. The genome of these viruses is divided into segments. Viruses can swap their segments while reproducing within a cell, a process called reassortment. Reassortment is an important factor in determining the capacity to infect new hosts, evade immune responses or vaccines, and adapt to new environments.