Dr. Kristen Ogden and graduate student Sydni Smith build their own viruses while we asked them some questions about their research!
Kristen (K): I don't think my lab likes any artificial lighting.
K: Even on the dark, rainy, cloudy days, they’re in there in the dark.
VI4 Scientists Doing Things
K: I'm Kristen Ogden. I'm the principal investigator in a virology lab.
S: My name is Sydni Smith. I am Kristen's fifth year graduate student. Currently the senior graduate student.
[off screen] Casey (C): Feel free to start building your virus.
[What does your lab study?]
K: So we study how viruses acquire genetic diversity and how that diversity impacts virus and host populations, but that's really broad. So more specifically, we study reovirus and rotavirus. In case of rotavirus, it tends to cause disease in infants and young children. Reovirus doesn't cause a lot of disease, but also interestingly can kill certain types of cancer cells. So it's being investigated as an oncolytic.
[What is your thesis about?]
S: For my thesis project, I'm mostly focused on looking at how reovirus actually gets out of cells. You would think that we would know how reovirus does that but surprisingly, that's still a big question mark that's in the field.
K: When I started graduate school, I actually had more experience with bacteria and thought I wanted to do bacteriology, but I ended up rotating through some really wonderful virology labs and I just became fascinated with these little segmented viruses. I just thought that viruses in general are really fascinating in how much of an effect they can have on another living being, even though they're so tiny.
[Where do you see yourself in 10 years?]
S: I was really fortunate to actually do an internship in industry specifically at Pfizer and that really inspired me to want to go back into looking at the clinical pipeline and definitely stay in infectious disease but hopefully find my place somewhere in industry.
[What excites you the most about researching at VUMC?]
K: There's just a lot of collaboration. I really enjoy talking to my colleagues, interacting with them and everyone's willingness to share ideas. One of the initiatives I'm involved in with the VI4 is a program to support junior faculty. So we have sessions where we cover topics that are interest of junior faculty and we have every couple of years of retreat where junior faculty get to know each other and this really fosters interaction among faculty members.
S: I had absolutely no game plan for mine. I just thought it would look friendly.
K: I do have a little bit of a game plan here for some of mine. A lot of viruses have icosahedral symmetry and so they have different axis, like a threefold symmetry axis here. And then a lot of viruses have attachment proteins that are trimers. So three different molecules that make up the attachment proteins. So I have some trimers on here.
S: Kristen's is much more accurate.