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Interest is Spreading
The Plagues and Pandemics Course

By Kirsten Mickelwait


Beatty teaching
Robert Beatty teaching

For most of us, living through the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) pandemic has felt like a novel, life-changing event. But similar disease outbreaks, though more contained, have regularly occurred throughout human history — several of them within our own lifetimes. (Remember Ebola? Zika? HIV?) Still, the recent impact of COVID has made viral immunologist Robert Beatty’s class, MCB55 “Plagues and Pandemics,” more popular than ever. You could say that interest is contagious.

First developed in 2008 by Beatty and bacterial immunologist Russell Vance, the six-week infectious disease course is being offered for the first time as an online class during summer session of 2022. Intended for non-majors, Plagues and Pandemics is open to freshmen, sophomores, and even high school and international students who have taken high school biology. 

The curriculum will examine historical and current examples of infectious diseases and consider how to control the impact of future epidemics and pandemics. After a brief background in microbiology and immunology, the class will focus on the biological and social implications of particular infectious diseases, including influenza, HIV, Ebola, malaria, tuberculosis, herpes and SARS.

Zika virus
Zika virus stained astrocyte (green=actin, blue=nuclei and yellow= Zika envelope protein). Image credit: Henry Puerta-Guardo

Beatty hopes to convey to his students that infection, transmission and replication are things we can control. “The more we can vaccinate a population, the more we can reduce infections,” he says. “By reducing transmission, we not only help the entire community, but we can reduce the replication and evolution of these diseases.” 

A devoted instructor, Beatty has been teaching MCB immunology classes for the past 24 years and conducting research in infectious diseases in the Harris Lab. His current research focuses on analyzing the immunopathology of flavivirus infections, including dengue, Zika virus disease, yellow fever, and West Nile fever.

Banner image: Zika virus stained astrocyte (control). Image credit: Henry Puerta-Guardo


To learn more about the class, search MCELLBI 55 on the UCB summer sessions website. Registration is open until July 10.




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