One of the Collegeís newest faculty members is assistant professor Britt Glaunsinger, a virologist in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Glaunsinger arrived at Berkeley after completing a research fellowship at UCSF.
A common misperception of microbiologists in the Plant and Microbial Biology department is that they focus exclusively on plant pathogens, but your work looks primarily at the human herpes virus. How does it all fit together?
PMB has a definite strength in plant research, but we have a number of great microbiologists working on both plant and non-plant pathogens. This diverse environment provides me with an opportunity to get ideas from a totally different perspective, pushes me to think about things in new ways, and will hopefully lead my research in directions I havenít anticipated.
How well are the workings of viruses really understood?
We have a pretty good handle on the basic mechanisms by which many viruses operate, but many questions are still unanswered. The fact that we still have so much to learn can be illustrated by all the current and looming epidemics out there, like HIV, West Nile virus, and avian influenza.
Iím very interested in how viruses serve as fantastic tools to teach us about the inner workings of our cells. After all, many of the discoveries that have shaped our fundamental understanding of how cells operate stem from virus research. I think many more of these discoveries are going to be made in the future.