Haley Caldwell, Ph.D.
Microbiology & Immunology
University at Albany School of Public Health, Biomedical Sciences
Craig Cameron, Ph.D.
I received my PhD in Biomedical Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Alexander Ciota, director of the Arbovirus laboratory at Wadsworth Center from the State University of Albany School of Public Health. My work focused on Flaviviruses, specifically West Nile virus – a positive sense RNA virus vectored via mosquitoes and endemic within the U.S. Dual host viruses like West Nile have remarkable host plasticity and can thrive in vastly different host environments; however, the factors governing this plasticity remain poorly understood. Utilizing biochemical, virological, structural, bioinformatic and molecular methodologies, I determined that a naturally occurring viral mutant present within the viral population facilitates adaptation to mosquitoes. My experience fostered my interest in the mechanisms surrounding the maintenance of viral fitness within dual host viruses. I was fortunate to be able to share my love of viruses with students during several guest lectures and as a teaching assistant at the undergraduate and graduate level. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare disparities in scientific education and perception regarding viruses, and it is my goal to help better communicate these concepts to students. As a SPIRE scholar, I look forward to expanding my research in dual host viruses via understanding of the mechanisms used by viral enzymes to retain fitness while continuing to mentor and instruct students.