Within the past year, all of us at CeZAP have had the opportunity to hear from students and faculty within most of the thematic areas on their research and what goes on behind the scenes. With each monthly thematic social, we have gotten the chance to take a deeper look at some of the research being done within each area, build connections with other departments, and network between researchers to discover new methods and aspects of different research being conducted.

Throughout 2023, and going into 2024, we have heard from 9 out of the 11 thematic areas, and each one has taught us something new and amazed us in new ways. These thematic areas being, Pathogen Identification and Disease Diagnosis, Antimicrobial Countermeasures, Computational Biology and Disease Modeling, Ecology and Epidemiology, Environmental Microbiology, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Immunology, Vector Biology and Vector-borne Diseases; with the future areas to be highlighted being Public Health and Clinical Microbiology, and Zoonotic Diseases.

February’s thematic area will be Zoonotic Diseases, with the thematic social being on Tuesday, February 6th in ILSB 1040 and the lobby from noon to 1:30 pm. The designated group leader for this area is John Maurer, a professor here at Virginia Tech in the School of Animal Sciences who has a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology. We look forward to hearing from the presenters and seeing you all there. As always, lunch will be provided.

Hosting these socials has allowed researchers, ranging from students, faculty, and postdocs, to talk about what they love! By telling us more about what they are currently studying, their overall research, and other interesting snippets, we have been able to look more efficiently at their research as well as our own. We have been able to make new friends that we had not crossed paths with yet, learn about topics being researched that we had no idea about, and been able to foster connections for future collaborations.

These socials start with flash talks and short presentations, and then they go on to social hour where everyone gets the chance to converse with one another while eating good food. Each one left us impressed with the researchers and the turnout, as we have gotten to meet more people with each social. These events have been the highlight of our year, and we look forward to the rest!

Written by Anna Barker