Dr. Shannon Bennett of the California Academy of Sciences discusses the secrets of viruses and bacteria, their evolution and eventual epidemic.
You could almost say that Shannon Bennett's career as a virologist found her after she became infected with parasites while on a volunteer stint in Liberia during her college years. She was fascinated by the experience to the point that she has been on a quest to understand the secrets, the life cycle and evolutionary history of viruses and bacteria ever since. Hear about her research as she discusses fascinating examples from her work such as how the dengue virus continues to evolve and plague humans since jumping over from non-human primates decades ago. Learn how this virus has adapted to humans and the mosquitoes that have in turn become so well adapted to us. With these questions, Dr. Bennett's work broadens the Academy's research scope to include a dedicated focus on viruses and bacteria. As you will discover, she is especially interested in the nature of genetic mutations that give viruses the potential to cause epidemics or switch to new hosts.
Dr. Bennett is the Academy's first ever Associate Curator of Microbiology. In this new position, she will broaden the Academy's research scope to include a dedicated focus on viruses and bacteria. Her specialty lies in infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
From 2004-2011, Bennett was an Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine & Infectious Diseases, part of the School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. During her seven years at the Institute, she led a number of research projects on virus evolution, identification, and transmission with funding from the National Institutes of Health. She applies advanced technologies from genomics and bioinformatics to study dengue, hantavirus, influenza, and other viruses, and also bacteria such as leptospirosis and those found in mosquito vectors. She is especially interested in the nature of genetic mutations that give viruses the potential to cause epidemics or switch to new hosts.
Prior to her work in Hawaii, Bennett researched the dengue virus in Puerto Rico and parasitic roundworms in Texas and Vancouver. She received her B.Sc. from McGill University and her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Shannon Bennett, Assistant Curator of Microbiology at the California Academy of Sciences, uses gene sequencing tools to trace the spread of viruses from nature to the human population and help stop the next pathogen epidemic. From her research, Bennett declares that "we are really bags of different viruses."