A question & answer session to get to know Alba Frias-De-Diego, 2nd year graduate student in the Comparative Biomedical Sciences Program.

What aspect of genetics and/or genomics most interests you?

I have two main interests. One of them is evolution and how organisms adapt and modify their genome under certain evolutionary pressures. The other one is related to how pathogens (in my case viruses) are able to disrupt cellular pathways by modifying gene expression to ensure they are successful on their infection!

What (or Who) influenced you to go into your field of study?

Definitely my grandfather and my high school Biology teacher. She made Biology look so cool and awesome and that made me fall in love with it, especially with genetics. Then during my degree, I met an awesome virology professor who made me fall in love with viruses, and now I am able to fuse those two passions together!

Who or what do you hope benefits from your research?

I think it is a little early to determine, but I wish I can find and describe a way to reduce the effect of viral infectious diseases, either for animals or humans.

How can your research be used to inform decision makers (e.g. policy makers, resource managers, health practitioners, K12 educators, etc etc)?

Right now, my model organism is the pig, and so far I can show decision makers that certain supplementation can reduce the effect of a virus in an infected individual, and recommend that if they use it in the required amount they will see a reduction in the mortality and therefore a reduction in their economic loss.

What do you think is the most pressing issue or problem in your field of study?

I think it is hard to explain certain technical things to people out of the area of genetics and infectious diseases, and how important that is to be able to understand the basis of the problem you are trying to do research on, so getting funding is more difficult than in the case of more directly-applied science.

How do you expect the GG Scholars program to impact your work?

I want to learn a lot more about how I can implement genetics in my research. I feel like I am not even grasping the surface of all I need to learn and that is exciting.

How would you describe your research interests to a 3rd grader?

I want to know how viruses modify the internal mechanisms of cells to make them stop behaving as they should so the virus is able to multiply and infect other cells.

What’s your dream job?

I would like to work in academia and hopefully be the person someone refers to when they are asked who influenced them to go into their field of study.