Updated: May 12, 2020
Thank you for visiting my blog. The attention it has received in the past several days has been incredible. Here is the backstory to the blog because I want to make sure those of you reading it know who I am and the limits of my expertise.
I am a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I balance Teaching, Research and Public Service (that is, when we are allowed in our labs).
This past semester, I taught a class on Ecology of Infectious Disease to undergraduate students. I always like to have a current disease example as a common thread throughout the course. So in January, when I was putting the syllabus for my course together, I saw a pathogen emerging in China and decided to incorporate it. Since early January my students and I have been developing and updating a huge notice board of information outside my laboratory on the new research findings to track the pathogen’s progression.
As I saw the pathogen going global, I started writing pieces on Facebook for friends because I suspected that the outbreak was going to become significant, would negatively affect our daily lives, and I wanted them to be prepared. Those friends asked if I could put my writing on a web page so that their non-Facebook friends and relatives could access it.
As I posted new material, the audience kept growing. Most posts were seen by 300-400 people, but some post were viewed by a few more, especially when they were on practical topics like shopping. For a reason unknown to me, my post titled “The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them,” first posted on May 7, 2020, just took off. It’s been a surreal and humbling experience.
The blog posts, while factual, discuss emerging science on COVID-19 in a colloquial way. They should not be interpreted in any other way. My goal is to make the science accessible to the general public.
My background is in the epidemiology of, and immunity to, infectious disease in animals. Most of my current work focuses on the evolution of the immune system, the immunological mechanisms responsible for protection from infectious disease, and the design and use of vaccines to control infectious disease in animals. The content of my courses, however, usually focuses on infection and immunity in humans.
An integral part of my current teaching and research program at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is communicating science with diverse audiences. This integration of research and communication has been supported by grant funding from the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture. Together with my wonderful colleagues in the Biology Department, we have also developed a graduate course in Science Communication with a whole section on Science Blogs.... time for an update!
I am not holding myself out as an expert on this virus or epidemiology and I rely on the amazing scientists publishing and discussing their work for the material and data content of my posts. These scientists are the true rock-stars of the response to COVID-19. I just enjoy being able to translate their data and findings into prose that non-scientist lay people can more readily understand as we navigate through this pandemic.