San Marcos

Understanding How Viruses Work at the Molecular Level



​Infectious diseases in freshwater environments are a major concern for medical, veterinary and conservation efforts worldwide. Many pathogens of humans and wildlife depend on these freshwater ecosystems. However, our understanding of many freshwater pathogens is limited. Therefore, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of immune evasion and pathogenicity may provide insight into how freshwater viruses spread and cause severe, life-threatening illness.

Undergraduate student Hector Galvez's research aims to identify and characterize viral genes that influence the virulence of a ranavirus, a class of viruses that infect cold-blooded vertebrates, including fish, amphibians, and reptiles.

Under the supervision of Dr. James Jancovich, assistant professor of biological sciences, Galvez's project hopes to identify the ranavirus genes involved with viral pathogenesis by generating knock-out viruses with selectively deleted target genes. These modified viruses are then characterized in cell culture and in the virus' natural host, tiger salamanders.

This NIH-funded project provides an ideal model for students to learn virology, immunology, and host-pathogen interactions without the complications of studying a mammalian pathogen or using a non- native host species.​

"Working in Dr. Jancovich's laboratory has allowed me the opportunity to create new knowledge in the field of biology," Galvez notes. "This laboratory work has not only set the foundation for my life as a research scientist, but has paved the way for a future in a multitude of scientific fields." Galvez will begin a doctoral program at UCSD in the fall.