GLOBES Graduates Gain Cutting Edge Skills to Fight Infectious Disease

Author: Ryan Palczynski

GLOBES students Becca Love and Quirine ten Bosch are part of a new vanguard of Ph.D. recipients armed with cross-cutting training and a deep knowledge of life science to enable them to understand and battle infectious disease in the developing world. Both students recently earned Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Biological Sciences as well as GLOBES Certificates in Environment and Society for their creative and integrative research.


Quirine, who defended her dissertation in January 2017, acquired a strong disease modeling background in her graduate studies under faculty advisor Alex Perkins, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Concurrent Assistant Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics. Quirine completed her GLOBES research project by serving as the lead scientist in the development of a dengue branch for the Institute for Disease Modeling. The Institute is part of the Global Good Initiative, a collaboration between the Gates Foundation and Intellectual Ventures. Its flagship modeling software supports disease campaign planning, data gathering, new product development, and policy decisions with an emphasis on enabling global health programs to move beyond disease control to disease eradication. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne, tropical disease prevalent in the developing world that can inflict extensive morbidity and mortality on unprotected communities. Quirine has accepted a post-doctoral research position at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, concentrating on another prevalent mosquito-borne illness, the chikungunya virus in Bangladesh.


Becca successfully defended her dissertation in February 2017 after studying under Professor Nora Besansky of Biological Sciences, an expert on the phylogenetics of mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Becca’s research broke new ground on genomic methodologies and genetic variation in insects, especially the Anopheles gambiae complex, the primary species of mosquito responsible for the transmission of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. Becca’s interdisciplinary research project for GLOBES took the form of four essays about genomics, intended as an introduction to the field for people with limited background in science.The first essay discussed what a genome is, and compared it to other large collections of information. The second essay explored why scientists want to study genomes, as well as some of the kinds of information they can glean from such research. The third essay examined the process of assembling a reference genome, including genome characteristics that make assembly difficult. Finally, the fourth essay addressed established as well as new genomics methods, and how those technologies are relevant to human health and well-being.

Becca will continue in the Besansky lab as a postdoctoral researcher where she will develop computational methods for inversion karyotyping within the Anopheles gambiae complex. These advanced genome-sequencing technologies are highly promising for developing vector controls without labor-intensive microscopy.