Our latest guest is also the latest faculty addition to the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Dr. Monica Mugnier (big news: Monica won an 2016 NIH Early Independence Award which allowed her to skip the tradtional postdoctoral fellowship and become faculty right after completing her PhD work). Monica studies a kind of parasite, called a tropanosome, that causes the disease African Sleeping Sickness. They are very difficult to control for a vaiety of reasons, one of them being the focus of her work (and some very cool science) on how they can rapidly change their coats to avoid detection by our immune system (aka antigenic variation). Monica finds these parasites so cool to study because they break all of the rules (read: they don’t follow any of the classic biology rules that she learned in class). Lots of mystery and discovery!
Monica and I have a great conversation on how to make a great science presentation (and how difficult it can be to strike the right amount of info, depending on your audience). We also discuss the challenges of conveying the importance of global health science research, especially when the illness primarily impacts people on a different continent.
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Related Episode Links:
- Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer (inspired Monica to get into parasitology)
- African Sleeping Sickness – Centers for Disease Control
- What is a parasite? Centers for Disease Control
- Antigenic Variation in African Tropanosomes by David Horn – scientific review of history of research
- Monica’s faculty profile at JHSPH
- “Rockefellar graduate Monica Mugnier wins 2016 NIH Early Independence Award” –allows junior scientists to skip traditional postdoctoral fellowships and become faculty right after completion of doctoral studies (WOW)