Anthony Wilson studies how the biology of blood-feeding insects affects the spread of viruses and our ability to control their spread. Wilson, group leader in Integrative Entomology at the Pirbright Institute in the United Kingdom, first did public engagement as a graduate student participating in the Science and Engineering Ambassador program at his university. He found it rewarding to speak with undergraduate students about STEM careers, especially because no one had encouraged him in this way. Since then, his public engagement has continued to be part of his research career, as his work is inherently public-facing. For example, he coordinated closely with veterinarians to manage and communicate about the bluetongue virus during the 2006 outbreak in Europe. He helped promote the message that insects spread this disease, which has severe impacts on livestock populations, and that people can help in controlling it and preventing its entry into the UK.
Havana Symposium Co-Organized by AAAS Leads to Promising Research Partnerships
This type of small-scale study could also be used to test candidate vaccines for other viruses, including the Zika virus, scientists say.
The findings suggest a way to develop new vaccines — or repurpose existing drugs — against the virus.