Mark Paul Selda Rivarez

Paul Rivarez

Position: Researcher, North Carolina State University, USA / Caraga State University, Philippines 

Research focus: virus evolution and ecology

What do you love about viruses?
Their unexpectedly vast diversity, surprising ecological and biogeochemical functions, fascinating evolution and co-evolution with their hosts.

Who is your favourite scientist and why?
Currently, I am inspired by by many scientists in diverse fields not because of their achievements, but on how they triumph over certain difficulties. Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock stands out. I really liked how she overcome the difficulties of being a woman scientist during her era and used it to instead focus on her science even if people did not believe her. Her story resonates so much to me.

On what topic could you give a 30-minute presentation without any preparation?
Plant virus discovery and diversity analyses: past and current state of the art

What is your favourite way to spend a day off?
Watching my favorite TV shows, going to the gym, eating out and going out in nature, i.e. mountains for hikes, sea for a swim, or in botanical gardens, arboretums, farms to do some gardening or plant tending.

What are you currently learning?
Current Projects: Plant virus discovery in the tomato and weed agroecosystem context. Virus diversity and phylogenetic analyses, their biological characterization and ecological/epidemiological properties. Viroid discovery, diversity, and characterization.
Upcoming Projects: Natural history, evolution, and fitness trade-offs of a supergeneralist plant virus lifestyle. Diversity and diagnostics of viruses in Philippine tomatoes and weeds from vegetable agroecosystems.

If you could create a new invention, what would it be?
Shoes, cap, eye glasses, wrist watch or any wearable tech that is capable of aerosolized or particulated pathogen detection in the air or surfaces.

What is the most interesting question or challenge in science that is still unanswered?
Are viruses alive, and are we yet to discover non-obligate viruses? If no, then our definitions of life stay the same. If yes, then how do we now draw the line between life and non-life in biology?

What is the coolest thing about your research?
That there is always a new virus species anywhere you look.

What do people think about you that isn’t true?
That I am smart, although I am just really passionately curious and highly driven by people that inspires me.

What was your most surprising scientific finding?
The vast diversity (I mean, really a lot!) of novel virus species in non-crop plants (e.g. weeds, volunteers) in an agroecosystem.

For which project idea are you still looking for a cooperation partner?
We have a very raw idea, with a few young researchers, to estimate global risks associated with emergence of plant viruses in crops / wild flora / etc. and how it impacts global food supply in the next decades. There is a lot of computational, machine learning and modelling work involved, so we for sure would be glad to involve people who are experts on this.

What was your biggest achievement, and what your biggest failure?
My biggest achievement is finishing my PhD within 3 years, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and away from home. My biggest failure is doing a PhD in the middle of a pandemic, away from home. It’s ironic, but I could’ve been with my family and friends during this extremely difficult period.

Which scientific topic (outside of your field of research) do you think should have more scientific attention?
Interactions at the soil-microbe-plant health nexus, and biotechnologies to improve it.

If you were completely free to choose a scientific topic to work on, which would it be?
Catalog and discover all viruses of plants on Earth (which will take more than my career span for sure – we need more people to work on this!)

If you had the option to advise a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
In personal terms, I would advise my young self to have more sleep, eat well and be sporty. I could’ve been taller if I did. In academic/professional terms, seek mentorship as early as you can, and stick with it, but be 100% sure that you’ll be in good hands.

Is there anything else you would like to share with other EVBC members?
Thank you for accepting me as a member! I hope we can collaborate. We can connect through my email or Twitter.