Earth’s virology professor

w3310 virology 2012Nearly four months ago I stood at the front of a crowded classroom at Columbia University and began teaching the third year of my undergraduate virology course. Twice a week we discussed the basic principles of virology, including how virions are built, how they replicate, and how they cause disease. Yesterday was the 26th and last lecture in the course, entitled “H5N1”. In this lecture we covered the recent controversy over the publication of results on adapting avian influenza H5N1 viruses to transmit by the airborne route among ferrets. Fittingly, one of the two papers in question will be published tomorrow.

Each lecture in my virology course has been recorded as a videocast and is available at the course website, at iTunes University, or on Vimeo. Eighty-seven Columbia University undergraduates registered for the course in 2012, but over 14,000 individuals have subscribed to virology W3310 through iTunes University. I believe that it is important that the general public understand as much as possible about viruses, so they can participate in the debate about issues that impact them, such as XMRV or H5N1. It is my goal to be Earth’s virology professor.

I am sure that the students were perplexed when I took their photo before the first lecture. Little did they know that they were about to take a very different science course, one taught by a professor who uses social media (blogs, podcasts, twitter) to teach the subject both in and out of the classroom. As one student wrote to me yesterday:

I wish that every professor I had had such passion and energy and a TWiV-like blog/show so I could be updated on all the big science gossip/news to complement my in-class knowledge! I can’t recount how many times I told my non-science friends about TWiV as an exhibit to prove that science is cool and important. Thank you for being passionate scientists that made me want to study science (and be super nerdy but connected to the world) in the first place.

I would like to thank all the students of virology in and out of the classroom for their enthusiasm and their willingness to learn a complex subject. Virology will be offered again in the spring of 2013, and you can be reassured that it will be different. My course, like viruses, is continually evolving.

TWiP 19: Enterobius vermicularis, the pinworm

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

On episode 19 of the podcast This Week in Parasitism, Vincent and Dickson move on to nematodes with a discussion of the pinworm.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download

TWiP is brought to you by the American Society for Microbiology at Microbeworld.org.

Links for this episode:

Download TWiP #19 (60 MB .mp3, 82 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiP (free) in iTunes, at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed or by email

Send your questions and comments to twip@microbe.tv

TWiP 18: Cryptosporidium

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

On episode 18 of the podcast This Week in Parasitism, Vincent and Dickson discuss the intracellular parasite Cryptosporidium, which causes diarrheal disease in most mammalian species.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download

TWiP is brought to you by the American Society for Microbiology at Microbeworld.org.

Links for this episode:

Download TWiP #18 (58 MB .mp3, 80 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiP (free) in iTunes, at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed or by email

Send your questions and comments to twip@microbe.tv

TWiP 17: Entamoeba histolytica

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

On episode 17 of the podcast This Week in Parasitism, Vincent and Dickson continue their discussion of protozoan parasites that cause diarrhea with a review of amebic dysentery caused by Entamoeba histolytica.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download

TWiP is brought to you by the American Society for Microbiology at Microbeworld.org.

Links for this episode:

Download TWiP #17 (55 MB .mp3, 76 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiP (free) in iTunes, at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed or by email

Send your questions and comments to twip@microbe.tv

TWiV 100: TWiV catches a big fish

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, and David Baltimore

Vincent, Alan, and Rich celebrate the 100th episode of the podcast This Week in Virology by talking about viruses with Nobel Laureate David Baltimore.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #100 (68 MB .mp3, 94 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV (free) in iTunes , at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed, or by email, or listen on your mobile device with Stitcher Radio.

Links for this episode:

Weekly Science Picks

Alan – TimeTree
Rich –
The neurons that shaped civilization
Vincent – Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore’s Life in Science by Shane Crotty

Send your virology questions and comments (email or mp3 file) to twiv@microbe.tv or leave voicemail at Skype: twivpodcast. You can also post articles that you would like us to discuss at microbeworld.org and tag them with twiv.

TWiV 99: ICAAC Boston 2010

Host: Vincent Racaniello

Vincent tours the 50th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Boston, speaking with exhibitors and visitors, including Professors Derek Smith, Michael Schmidt, Frederick Hayden, and Myra McClure.

Many thanks to Chris Condayan and Ray Ortega of the American Society for Microbiology for recording and editing this episode.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #99 (45 MB .mp3, 62 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV (free) in iTunes , at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed, or by email, or listen on your mobile device with Stitcher Radio.

Links for this episode:

Send your virology questions and comments (email or mp3 file) to twiv@microbe.tv or leave voicemail at Skype: twivpodcast. You can also post articles that you would like us to discuss at microbeworld.org and tag them with twiv.

TWiV 98: Murine musings, electric shirts, and rabid pathologists

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Alan Dove, and Rich Condit

On episode 98 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent, Alan, and Rich review the finding of murine leukemia virus-related sequences in the blood of CFS patients and healthy donors, laboratory inventories for wild poliovirus containment, weaving high-performance viral batteries into fabric for the military, and a case of human rabies in Indiana.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #98 (58 MB .mp3, 80 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV (free) in iTunes , at the Zune Marketplace, by the RSS feed, or by email, or listen on your mobile device with Stitcher Radio.

Links for this episode:

Weekly Science Picks

Alan – NCBI ROFL
Rich –
The Great Bridge by David McCullough
Vincent – Dr. Rous’ Prize-Winning Chicken

Send your virology questions and comments (email or mp3 file) to twiv@microbe.tv or leave voicemail at Skype: twivpodcast. You can also post articles that you would like us to discuss at microbeworld.org and tag them with twiv.

TWiP 2: General parasitism

twip_200Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

On episode 2 of the podcast “This Week in Parasitism”, Vincent and Dick classify parasites according to whether or not they are transmitted by a vector, then consider the implications of long-lived parasites.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download

Download TWiP #2 (47 MB .mp3, 65 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiP (free) in iTunes, by the RSS feed or by email

Send your questions and comments to twip@microbe.tv

Poliovirus on BBC radio

bbcAt the end of 1981, the year that I had shown that cloned poliovirus DNA is infectious, BBC Radio asked me to do an interview about the work. The name of the show was Science Now but I can’t recall who was the host. Whoever he was, he didn’t understand what I had done and got the science all wrong. Listen to the interview below and see if you can spot his errors.

For the interview I went to the MIT student radio station where I sat alone behind a wall of glass, with headphones on, before a very large microphone. On the other side of the glass a few disk jockeys were broadcasting a show; the music came through and was picked up by the BBC recorder.

A few weeks after the interview the BBC sent me a tape of the show with a note which read “With the compliments of the British Broadcasting Corporation”. I found the tape recently in a desk drawer and amazingly, the recording was still intact. But I had forgotten how little the radio host knew about viruses.

Download the file (5 min 3.9 MB .mp3)