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Penn Vet’s Institute for Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases hosted its first symposium, “From Outbreaks to Breakthroughs: Tackling Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases” Symposium.

The symposium kicked off on the evening of Wednesday, March 29, with the Robert R. Marshak Public Lecture, “Stories in Crisis: How the Pandemic Changed Science Journalism” presented by Katherine J. Wu, PhD, staff writer for The Atlantic and former science and health reporter for The New York Times.

Watch a video of the presentation.

On Thursday, March 30, an exciting lineup of researchers convened for the Institute’s inaugural academic symposium at the University of Pennsylvania.

Stories in Crisis Event Summary

The American public faced an onslaught of information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Science and health reporters covered in real time - with no established bodies of research to reference - the underlying science of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and navigated complex topics in vaccinology, virology, and immunology. Journalists had to persevere through an unrelenting firehose of data and reporting to keep the public informed, accurately, and objectively. The Atlantic’s Katherine Wu, PhD, talks about her own experience and lessons learned while reporting on the pandemic that shuttered the world.

Symposium Summary

Three-quarters of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, driven by biological and environmental factors, land use changes, and pressing socioeconomic issues. This symposium brings together over a half-dozen researchers to encourage the exchange of scientific information on issues affecting the emergence, spread, and control of infectious disease.

Presenters Included:

Matthew Ferrari, PhD, Professor, Department of Biology, Eberly College of Science, Pennsylvania State University. Primary research interest: The use of mathematical and statistical tools to understand patterns of disease incidence.

Marion Koopmans, DVM, PhD, Professor and Head of the Department of Viroscience, Erasmus University Medical Center, Netherlands. Primary research interest: the modes of transmission of viruses among animals and between animals and humans, and the use of pathogenic genomic information to signal changes in transmission.

Louise H. Moncla, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Primary research interest: Virus emergence and transmission in human populations.

Jason Munshi-South, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University. Primary research interest: The behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary impacts of large-scale human disturbance/urbanization on wild vertebrate populations.

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Primary research interest: The study of RNA and innate immune system biology and the application of these findings to vaccine research and gene therapy.

Krista Rule Wigginton, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan. Primary research interest: The source and fate of emerging contaminants in aqueous systems.