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SARS Saturday… Chasing COVID

Date: Sat., Oct. 30 | 10 am–2 pm
No admission required!

Presented by:
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Calling all future scientists! Meet a virologist, an immunologist, an infectious disease doctor, and more from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research opens in a new window. Explore the parts of SARS‑CoV-2 – from the number of spike proteins to the virus genome. Learn about herd immunity and why it’s important, and the need to continue being creative in vaccinology.

  • Ask a scientist! Have a question about COVID-19 variants? Meet world-renowned virus researchers and get your questions answered.
  • See the engaging and inspiring 30-minute film, CHASING COVID in the Science Stage. CHASING COVID opens in a new window is a new film that takes viewers inside the biocontainment laboratories in the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research where Dr. Paul Duprex, Director and Jonas Salk Professor, and his team have been working collaboratively with scientists around all the world to unlock the secrets of COVID-19 and find ways to defeat this new coronavirus.
  • Take part in activities to learn about the structure of viruses, how disease spreads, and see what scientists who work with these dangerous viruses in Center for Vaccine Research have to wear.

All activities run from 10 am–2 pm and are free to the public. Admission to the Science Center’s exhibit galleries requires the purchase of a General Admission ticket.

Dr. Paul Duprex, Director

<Dr. Paul Duprex
image courtesy of Dr. Paul Duprex

Paul Duprex is the Director of the Center for Vaccine Research (CVR opens in a new window), Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Jonas Salk Endowed Chair for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked for Johnson and Johnson (J&J) and was Professor of Microbiology at Boston University where he expanded his studies on emerging infectious diseases. These interests continue at the BSL3+ Regional Biocontainment Laboratory in Pittsburgh, where he is the Director.

He is a molecular virologist with nearly 25 years’ experience and works on human and animal respiratory viruses such as measles, mumps and SARS-CoV-2. His research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of viral diseases and vaccine function, with a view to developing rationally attenuated vaccines. He is interested in barriers that restrict viruses jumping from animals to humans and developing approaches to predict pathogen evolution that may assist with pandemic preparedness.

He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of General Virology and a Senior Editor of mSphere.  Paul is a member of the American Society for Virology (ASV), The Microbiology Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Paul has been a vocal advocate for communicating science for many years and often speaks and writes about vaccine hesitancy and why working safely in biocontainment matters. He chaired the ASV Communications Committee and is regularly interviewed for television, radio and print media. Paul appeared on the Trevor Noah podcast in 2020, 60 Minutes and Last week Tonight with John Oliver in 2021.  He was a panelist at the Wilson Center discussing Rolling out a Vaccine for COVID-19: Present Prospects and Lessons from the Past.

Paul is active on social media tweeting as @10queues opens in a new window.

Dr. Natasha Tilston-Lunel, Postdoctoral Associate

Natasha Tilston-Lunel
image courtesy of Natasha Tilston-Lunel

Dr. Natasha Tilston-Lunel is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) at the University of Pittsburgh. She was born in London, UK and moved to Bangalore, India when she was eight years old. She has an undergraduate degree in Microbiology/Zoology/Chemistry from India and a Master’s degree in Environmental Science focusing on human health and epidemiology from the UK. Natasha’s interest lies in understanding how infectious diseases spread at an environmental as well as at a cellular level. She worked at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine in the UK as a research assistant during the 2009 flu pandemic. Here, she was involved in setting up a web-based survey called Flusurvey, to understand self-reported trends of influenza-like-illness. She has also worked in different laboratories involved in Mycobacterium tuberculosis research. Natasha received her Ph.D. in 2016 from the University of St Andrews, Scotland specializing in Molecular Virology. After which she moved to the US to start her postdoctoral training in Boston. Natasha has worked with Oropouche virus, measles virus, canine distemper virus, Rift Valley fever virus and SARS-CoV-2. She loves everything about viruses and one day hopes to include virus hunting in her research. Aside from science, Natasha loves travelling, she’s visited eleven countries and lived in four of them. She loves hiking and spending time with her cat Tia, and has occasional spurts of interest in baking and sketching.

Dr. Sham Nambulli, Research Scientist

Dr. Sham Nambulli
image courtesy of Dr. Sham Nambulli

Sham Nambulli is a research scientist at the Center for Vaccine Research (CVR), University of Pittsburgh. He was born and brought up in Kerala, India. Sham completed his B.Sc. Microbiology from University of Madras, Chennai, India. He is very passionate about infectious diseases and how they affect us and the wider world. Therefore, early in his career he decided to specialize in Medical Microbiology and obtained a Masters diploma. He moved to the United Kingdom to pursue a Master’s program in Medical Microbiology in The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. It was there he first studied viruses in detail in his Masters of Research thesis in Virology. Sham decided to continue researching viruses and he received his Ph.D. in Molecular Virology from Queen’s University of Belfast, UK. He has over 15 years of experience in virology and has been trained and worked in laboratories with biosafety level (BSL)-3 and ‑4 biocontainment capabilities. He also has clinical microbiology and clinical virology experience from India and United Kingdom. Dr. Nambulli studies molecular virology, viral pathogenesis (disease progression), therapeutic and vaccine interventions. Sham and his family were profiled by the Pittsburgh TribLIVE in their fly-on-the wall online mini-documentary In the Shadow of Salk opens in a new window.

Dr. Anita McElroy, Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician

Dr. Anita McElroy
image courtesy of Dr. McElroy

Dr. Anita McElroy is a pediatric infectious disease physician with a research interest in hemorrhagic fever viruses. She obtained her PhD in Biology from University of California, San Diego, then did a post-doctoral fellowship in Bunyaviruses at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases. A lover of education, she then obtained her MD from the George Washington University. Following training in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Emory University along with 10 years spent working in CDC laboratories, she relocated to Pittsburgh where she is an Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. She provides clinical care to children with infectious diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Her lab studies Rift Valley fever virus, a virus found in Africa and the Middle East. She and her husband Craig have a super cute Chiweenie named Loki.

CHASING COVID is a University of Pittsburgh Center for Creativity Production. Producer: Janet Smith; Co-producer and Editor Andy Esper; and Producer and Director Carl Kurlander. For more information, visit: opens in a new window