The Mosquito Guy
The Mosquito Guy
Westminster alum seeks to understand Zika virus
by Anidhya Jamwal (’17)
As concern over the Zika virus grows, researchers are becoming increasingly interested in the carrier of the disease: the mosquito. Westminster graduate Chris Roundy (’11) is one of the researchers studying how the virus spreads through the mosquito’s body and responds to factors within the mosquito. “It is through manipulation of these factors that Zika could eventually be combatted,” Chris remarks.
His fascination with mosquitoes and widespread outbreak of a disease developed when he spent a summer in Uganda studying malaria prevention under public health professor Dr. Han Kim. “That was my first introduction to working with mosquitoes as vectors. I took a lot of upper division biology and public-health courses, which continued to show me I was very interested in diseases and their transmission at the public-health level.”
A third-year PhD student at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Chris’s involvement in the research of Zika virus springs from striving to understand the dynamics that lead to the outbreak of a disease. This interest also served as an impetus for him to minor in public health at Westminster. “Dr. Kim really encouraged me to consider research that went beyond the bench and to think about research and disease dynamics at a population level,” says Chris.
Although a majority of Chris’s time is consumed by research, he still ties all of his work to how it fits in the bigger picture. “To me, it is very important to know how the work I’m doing relates to the global transmission of these diseases and, eventually, how this work will benefit the people affected. These ideas were instilled in me by Dr. Kim,” Chris says.
At UTMB, Chris’s work as a research student is split between spending time in the insectary and doing fieldwork in Brazil. “In the insectary, I collect the saliva and tissues of the mosquitoes in order to determine the rates at which the mosquitoes transmit the virus and if any other factors within the mosquito aid in such transmission. In the field, I study how mosquitoes behave in their own local environment and then align the lab findings to see how external factors—as well as genetics of a mosquito—play a role in the transmission of the virus,” he says.
Chris’s most current research has shown that the Zika virus circulating within the Americas has not adapted itself for better transmission by Aedes aegypti, a common mosquito throughout the region.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.