Virology class at Montana State University

In August this year I received the following note from Michele Hardy, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Montana State University:

I’m writing to ask if you’d be willing to participate in my  undergraduate/graduate virology course this fall.   We have several guests per semester that we Skype in to talk with students.  I was thinking of you as a guest to talk with them about poliovirus, but also about your role in TWiV.  It’s not a lecture format, instead teams of students will research your work and come up with a set of questions that we would provide to you in advance.  In the past they’ve asked specifically about research areas, but also are really interested in what people’s backgrounds are, how they got to be where they are now, etc. We give them pretty much free reign to ask whatever they want to, whether it’s virus-specific or not.  Our goal is to get them excited about virology and so we don’t put restrictions on what they’re allowed to talk about.  Sometimes they stick to the questions they submit, others they take whatever direction the discussion goes.  There are ~60 students, 8-10 of them are graduate students.  We encourage them to listen to TWiV a few times a semester so I think they’ll be excited to talk with you.  Thanks for considering this, I look forward to hearing from you.

This past Monday I joined the class via Skype. The questions ranged from how I became interested in and use social media, to polio eradication. Listen to our conversation by clicking the arrow below.

Click arrow to play | Download (35 MB .mp3, 48 min)

Update: Received a nice thank you card from the class:

Bozeman class 2012

TWiV 107: Warning – this virus contains email

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, and Rich Condit

On episode #107 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent, Dickson, Alan, and Rich answer listener questions about poliovirus, social media, dengue, influenza, evolution, gel filtration, and much more.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #107 (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

Rich – Protein Synthesis: An epic on the cellular level
Dickson – The Patchwork Mouse by Joseph R. Hixson
Alan – Bill Hammack’s engineering videos
Vincent –
Visual Science (thanks, Svetlana)

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

Social media and microbiology education

Readers of this blog know that I embrace social media for teaching virology. My experience with two types of social media, blogging and podcasting, has been published as an Opinions piece by PLoS Pathogens (read the full text or download the pdf file). In this article I discuss how social media is becoming an increasingly integral component of both research and education in the world of science. My experience has convinced me that scientists must embrace these applications to not only better communicate their work to the public, but to facilitate the progress of research.

Blogging and podcasting are not the only forms of social media that I have found useful for teaching and research. I use Twitter to locate or disseminate information about virology. I often tweet when I write a new blog post or release a podcast, or when I find an article of interest. You can see what I post on Twitter without ever visiting the site – my most recent tweets are listed on virology blog, in the lower right hand column. The individuals who follow me on Twitter can investigate further by clicking on the links that I provide in each tweet.

For me the value of Twitter lies in the individuals that I follow – mainly scientists and science writers. You must be judicious in selecting who to follow, otherwise your Twitter stream will be too dense. I have found that following 100-200 individuals provides just the right amount of information. Unfortunately, there are few microbiologists on Twitter, and even fewer virologists. And the science writers far outnumber the scientists. I do not see this situation changing in the near future, so I conclude that for me Twitter is more about giving than receiving.

Another service that I find very useful is FriendFeed. This site provides a means for aggregating all of my online activities – tweets, blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, to name just a few. My followers can then see everything I do online at one site. In turn, I can follow others and track their online activities. An advantage of FriendFeed is that you can comment, like, or share any item, a feature can be useful for scientific discussions. For example, I can post links to interesting journal articles, and if my followers are interested they can begin a discourse on each one.

Then there is Facebook (which recently acquired FriendFeed). The sheer number of people there make it impossible to ignore. For example, I started a virology group on Facebook over a year ago, and even though I did not publicize it, 417 individuals joined. I just started a Facebook page for my podcast ‘This Week in Virology’, where I will post news about TWiV, and which I hope will become a gathering place for people who want to learn more about viruses. You can find it here.

Racaniello VR (2010). Social media and microbiology education. PLoS pathogens, 6 (10) PMID: 20975949

Microbiology education and social media

At the Spring 2010 meeting of the Society for General Microbiology In Edinburgh I spoke about ‘Social Media in Microbiology Education and Research’. In my presentation I reviewed how I use blogging, podcasting, and other social media tools to teach the public about viruses.

Below is a video recording of my presentation. Many thanks to Prof. AJ Cann for the opportunity to speak about our efforts. I also enjoyed excellent presentations by Prof. Graham Hatfull, Cameron Neylon, Kevin Emamy of citeulike, and Jason Hoyt of Mendeley.