Position: Principal Scientist and Director of Virology
Research focus: Pathogenesis and Medical Countermeasure Development and Evaluation of Risk Group 4 viruses/Taxonomy and evolution of viruses
What do you love about viruses?
Who is your favourite scientist and why?
Albert Einstein (cliche, but true)
On what topic could you give a 30-minute presentation without any preparation?
Anything filovirus; most things Risk Group 4 viruses; Soviet bioweapons program; everything virus taxonomy; scientific literature mining
What is your favourite way to spend a day off?
Learn new things/reading; spending time with my family
What are you currently learning?
If you could create a new invention, what would it be?
a faster-than light spacecraft
What is the most interesting question or challenge in science that is still unanswered?
Why do we sleep?
What is the coolest thing about your research?
The slow grasping of the absolute vastness of replicator sequence space and how the interactions of reproducers and replicators reciprocally shape evolution
What do people think about you that isn’t true?
That I am unhappy
What was your most surprising scientific finding?
That Ebola virus persists in survivors for many years and can reactive and spur new outbreaks
For which project idea are you still looking for a cooperation partner?
Not how my job is set up – people need to find me.
What was your biggest achievement, and what your biggest failure?
Biggest achievements: creation of a megataxonomic framework for viruses/delineation of the virosphere/first operation definition of “virus” since the 1960s; biggest failure (thus far): communication of the importance of taxonomic frameworks to the virology community
Which scientific topic (outside of your field of research) do you think should have more scientific attention?
Non-organismal, non-viral replicative elements as possible causes of disease
If you were completely free to choose a scientific topic to work on, which would it be?
Sociologic/historic study of “dark” scientific literature (i.e., the scientific works not indexed in the three major databases everybody uses and that in non-English languages) to evaluate whether the astounding ignorance of that huge body of important work cost us billions in redundant or superfluous work and years in scientific progress
If you had the option to advise a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
Pay attention in school; and realize teachers don’t know anything but you need to repeat their stuff to get the pieces of paper that allow you to actually learn things later.