First email contest entries:

Joanna writes:

Hi Twiveroids,

Thank you so much for the illustrated book of Viruses!

I’m a PhD student at the MRC – Centre for Virus Research (CVR) in Glasgow and I’m currently in the last couple of weeks of lab work before stopping to write up my thesis. I was working in Tissue Culture last Sunday, and was waiting in anticipation for the new TWiV episode to keep me entertained. I started listening 40 minutes after it went online and thought that there was no way I would be the first to email but decided to try anyway, I’m delighted to win.

Vincent, I had the privilege of meeting you in June 2015 when you came to Glasgow to record a couple of TWiV’s. I’m part of a group of PhD students and Postdocs who are running a CVR blog and a podcast called ‘Contagious Thinking’ and we would really appreciate if you could give us the “TWiV Bump”. We chat with virologists to find out a bit more about their research and about them personally, some of your listeners might find this interesting. Our most recent podcast was with Beatrice Hahn, listen out for it coming soon!

Thanks again for the book,

Joanna Morrell

Link to blog:



Sam: It’s 93 and sunny here in Tucson. Am I first?

Hello, this is Jimmy McCluskey a first year medical student at the University of Minnesota Medical School – Duluth Campus. Thank you so much for all of your excellent entertainment and wisdom!

Dylan: Any chance I’m the first to respond? I never got around to composing a letter about what virus I would be. Thanks for your work in producing these podcasts.

Andrea: Hello Twivitos,

I am sure I’m not the first email you have received for the contest but I wanted you to know that more than three people listen to more than just the beginning of your podcast. And I don’t mind it being over an hour either, please don’t change it.

Keep up the good work and thank you.

Jason: Good morning TWIV

It is a cloudless sunny day in Orem, Utah. Hopefully I’m first to respond to win the copy of “virus an illustrated guide”. If not, I’m really enjoying all the podcasts from the microbe TV family, especially Urban Agriculture.

I’m an CBRN ( chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) Army veteran turned environmental scientist. I’m currently working on my degree at Utah Valley University. Your programs are my favorite media choice for the train ride to and from school.

Thank you for the wonderfully educational programs.

Shannon: I figure I’m probably too late, but just listened to the podcast so figured I had to try 🙂

Thanks for a great show


Shannon L. Johnson, PhD, PMP

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Nele: Am I too late? You know this gives a disadvantage to listeners living in a different timezone. Anyway just to be sure I ll send it anyway, maybe everyone thinks that they are too late 🙂

Sean: Thank you for the brilliant podcast and opportunity to learn more virology!

Christine: I know I am probably not first, but I love my twiv and it took me a couple of days to catch up with all my twix recordings that had backed up. I didn’t enter the last competition because I wasn’t sure you wanted to send to Australia but since you haven’t said anything I guess you don’t mind where we are.

Hannah: Hello Twiv Team!

I sincerely doubt I’m anywhere near the first to send this to you as it’s Tuesday morning already (I don’t start listening to the recent installment of Twiv until my commute home from work on Mondays, it’s my own personal “Congratulations, you’ve survived another Monday” reward), but I thought I’d send it in just in case.

And for the record, if I were a virus I’d be something silent and unobtrusive, as befits my introverted nature. I couldn’t think of a specific virus about which I could write 200 words, but I did give the matter some thought!

Thanks again for improving my commute to work,


David: Dear TWIV,

Not really hopeful to be the first, but I guess you are just interested to see as well how many people listen in in the first 72 hours, so here I go.

Ann: Hello Twivers!

Not sure if I was the first but I gave it a shot! Love your podcast.

Angela: Hello Twivome,

I’m guessing that you’ve already had someone email you first but figured it was worth a shot anyway.  I haven’t had a chance to listen to the new TWiV until now due to furiously & continuously writing my thesis.  

By the way, if I had chosen a virus to be, it would likely be HSV-1.  You can travel from person to person (hopefully via the mouth) & then can travel into the innervating neuron where you have a chance at “life again” so to speak through reactivation.  Though I may just be partial to that particular virus as that as what I’ve studied throughout my grad career.  

Thank you for the wonderful podcast!!  I absolutely thoroughly enjoy it & recommend it to all my students and anyone else who I think might be interested.  I love hearing about all the different viruses (& the weather) and learning new things each week.  

By the way, it’s sunny and 85 degrees F with 59% humidity making it feel like 91 degrees F here in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Hopefully we’ll get fall weather soon, but you never know with Kansas weather).


Angela Fowler

Ph.D. candidate in the Davido lab

University of Kansas

Julie: I hope I get this book! I’m in my first year of my second bachelor’s degree. I graduated over 10 years ago with a degree in creative writing, and the TWiX podcasts inspired me to academically pursue my love of biology.

(Weather here in Alabama is 91F and humid. I love it!)

Rachel: Just got around to listening to this week’s podcast; and though I’m sure someone has beat me to it, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Your podcast was recommended to me by my mentor at OHSU, and I have really enjoyed listening.

Thanks for making virology fun and accessible.

Patricia writes:

I am virus!

I’ve got a million things I keep meaning to write in about, but to begin with, I *know* I’m not going to be the first person in with an “I am virus” title, but I really do want to enter a contest! I just never listen to an episode in the right time frame to enter! I tend to stack old episodes of other podcasts (am on a History of the English Language kick, since I caught up on the other podcasts I picked for you folks a while back) and then come back to the TWI’s after a month or so to catch up – This has resulted in me missing every contest on TWiV ever, despite listening since 2009 – also why I’ve never submitted diagnoses to TWiP, because the only ones I can venture a guess on have already been answered in the following episode before I listen to the initial case presentation. Terrible luck! My intention was to email my two-hundred word essay on why I want to be a bat Rubulavirus, but quite frankly the essay on being bird flu put anything I’d want to say to shame.

Three other things:

I want to tell Dickson that even if no one else audibly groans or reacts to his wicked puns and other sly comments (unlike when y’all credit Alan’s puns), I do laugh out loud on the subway or tissue culture hood. Don’t stop!

I also wanted to draw attention to one of the letters you read a few episodes ago, from Amanda, Director of the Sask Infectious Disease Lab – what you may not realize is that she is a long-time listener who’s written you on multiple occasions; from Halifax, and then from Papua New Guinea, and then finally from her Saskatchewan home, as she’s followed TWIV throughout her varied and cool progression through Grad school and two postdocs before landing her dream job running the provincial infectious disease lab. I’ve similarly written in from different email addresses and locations (less exotic, just Saskatchewan and New York) as TWIV has guided me throughout my career so far.

And lastly, since I’m finally caught up, I want to applaud your drawing attention to  the poo-pooh-ing of the Karst lab’s work on Norovirus infection by the Baylor group. I got all riled up listening to it, having heard a little about this particular problem from an old friend in the past. This is something that happens more than it should, where an established researcher disagrees with a newer lab’s reports. Instead of addressing it scientifically (say, test whether it repeats, and then, if it does, cite the original bloody paper!!) the senior lab withholds credit and citations and advances their own work, or acts as the infamous “Reviewer Number Three” who outright rejects the paper because they don’t believe it. Thanks for calling it out – and a note to the other listeners, it is only rarely that the underdog lab has an Emeritus Professor from the same institution who happens to have a podcast venue to provide the other half of the story, so take narratives as presented in introductions and discussions of papers with…. caution.

As always, thanks for your hard work!



P.S. I also just now realize that you’ve already recorded the next episode, so I’ve missed being in the Follow-Up… so I really think you TWiVists should do an all-email episode soon!


Patricia Thibault, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Lee Lab

Department of Microbiology

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Ann writes: 

Hello TWiVers!

I am a research technician at UT Southwestern, and I just finished listening to episode 406 while completing an assay at the bench (it took me an hour to finish the serial dilutions for all of my samples, I’m sure y’all know my pain).

While listening I was excited to hear that you were going to discuss the paper about human norovirus cultivation in enteroids published recently in Science! I had recently read this paper a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss it with anyone, so I was anticipating your insights. However I was surprised to hear the controversy surrounding the paper by the authors’ dismissal of the work done by another group showing norovirus replication in B-cells. I was unaware of this previous work, so I thank you for bringing it up in the podcast so that I may read about it at a later date.

I agree with Vincent (who I think brought up this point) that the journal should have noticed the statement about the dismissal of the B-cell work and insisted that they rephrase their claim. I have seen first-hand just how frustrating it can be trying to combat the biases of other scientists by watching my post-doctoral coworkers struggle to publish their own data, even though they are careful to include many controls and anticipate reviewer questions. It breaks my heart a little to see how competitive and sometimes nasty the scientific world can get. I guess those attributes are unavoidable in any professional setting, although this nastiness could be mitigated if journal editors and reviewers took more responsibility.

Regardless, I did enjoy the paper and thought their argument was well supported by their data. I was also interested in how bile was a requirement for certain strains of norovirus to replicate; this would be a cool mechanism to explore!

Love listening to both TWiM and TWiV! Y’all do a great job at sniffing out interesting stories and breaking down the data so that anyone can understand. Keep up the good work!



Anthony writes: (to David Quammen)

“Dead people don’t get on the subway and cough on anybody.”

If the corpse is subject to funeral practices that spread body fluids, sheer lethality can indeed be in a virus’s best interest.

Thank you for your great appearance on TWiV.

I’ah writes:

Hey Folks!

I’ve just finished watching TWiV 408 and found it absolutely fascinating! I am recent biomedical science graduate from the UK and will be starting grad school, as you call it, in January – studying virology (specifically dengue virus). I’m a fairly new regular listener and you have completely revamped my passion for virology after having spent a year out of studies. Anyway, I was supposed to be asking a question!

Vincent’s point regarding news outlets’ propensity to sensationalise health news, viral outbreaks in particular, really struck a chord with me. Amongst my friends and family, who are not scientifically trained, many tend to really get wrapped up in these headlines and often come to me saying “Did you know…blah blah blah!” or “what do you think of this?” Often it is a hyperbolic scare story of some description. I find it quite difficult to respond without being patronising. How do you deal with educating or convincing your friends and family that actually these trusted news outlets can get facts majorly mixed up and/or are not to be completely trusted when it comes to science news?

As an aspiring research scientist I feel slightly disheartened that large numbers people are increasingly skeptical of science and scientists and view them as uppity know-it-alls. I’ve spent some of this past year working in a school’s science department as an assistant tutor and I found that the way we teach science (in the UK, at least) is deeply flawed as we somehow skip over the part where the students learn to analyse and dissect information rather than taking it as fact straight away. Perhaps that leaves a large section of society susceptible to media hype.

P.s. I definitely ordered Spillover within seconds of the video finishing – cannot wait for it to arrive!

Kindest regards,

I’ah Donovan-Banfield, London, UK

Erik writes:

Dear Drs. Racaniello and Despommier (and other hosts),

Discovering This Week in Virology in late 2009 was, literally, a life-changing event for me. From the very first episode that I listened to I was hooked, and I discovered that my true path in life was to become a virologist. I remember seeing the backlist of episodes and perusing through them out of order (I was new to the concept of a podcast). I don’t know ecactly what it was that grabbed me, but I took and immediate interest and was eager to learn more about viruses. In addition to the backlist of episodes, which I finally started listening to in order from the very beginning, I took a virology course under Philip Marcus and fell even deeper in love with the topic (and I was thrilled that you were later able to interview him on TWiV shortly before his passing).

Beyond sculpting my passion for viruses, TWiV has also inspired me to pursue my goals: even the ones that seem unattainable! In September of 2012, ‘Threading the NEIDL’ was released. I was so excited and fascinated by the discussion in that episode and the tour of the facility that I decided I absolutely had to work there someday. Sure enough, a couple years later I found myself employed at the NEIDL with my own desk and a lovely view over the South End of Boston.

My life is the way that it is right now because TWiV guided me here. I will forever be grateful to you and the other hosts for helping me to discover my passion for virology.

These two journals are my attempt to both thank you and also to congratulate TWiV on the 400th episode (a bit belated, I know). I’ve developed a hobby, recently, of bookbinding and leatherwork and thought it might be fun to bind a couple of customized books for you. I would have like to make one for each of the hosts, but they’re fairly time-consuming to make so I thought one for each of the two founders of TWiV would suffice.

Please accept these tokens of appreciation and keep on cranking out those TWiX episodes! My appetite for them is insatiable!

Kind regards,

Erik Carter

Matlock writes:

Matlock writes:

Vincent and the other Twiveroos,

Love the show, I’ve been listening since episode 1 (when I was still in medical school, gasp!).  

Ignore this pick if it has already been mentioned.  I was perusing an article on fivethirtyeight about the statistical links between fracking and the remarkable increase in earthquakes we have had here in central Oklahoma over the last few years (whole ‘nother story) and ran across this fabulous interactive article:

I think it illustrates for both the scientist and non-scientist why science is intrinsically hard, and why, contrary to many popular opinions, it’s not “broken”.

A mercifully-soon-to-be-fall 34C/94F dew point of 73F with calmer than usual SW winds around 14mph in uptown Oklahoma City with storms on the horizon.

PS: In this part of the country (even in the large metros), we almost universally use “y’all” as the gender-neutral second person plural pronoun; it’s short, sweet, and to the point.  

Thanks, keep up the good work!


Matlock A. Jeffries, MD

Assistant Professor

Department of Rheumatology,

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

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