Paul writes:

Some very sad news to pass along.  It’s a bit difficult to write about at the moment.

Bob writes:

TWiV 436: Virology above Cayuga’s waters was NICE!

Last few TWiVs I have found boring, but #436 was very wide-ranging with interesting guests, and I liked it a lot.

As Vincent said towards the end, “Well I could go on forever, I love talking about viruses…”

Yup! Some of us out here in TWiVland agree!


Adam writes:

Dear TWiVsters,

Weather in Peoria Illinois is sunny and 5C with a high of about 25 today, a welcome respite from two weeks of raining.

A minor bit of bug pedantry – in TWiV 434 and several previous podcasts Vincent has hinted at his hope of doing a “bug podcast”.  While the popular perception of “bug” includes all insects and perhaps other creepy crawlies, the order hemiptera within the class insecta are technically the only true bugs.  The order includes aphids, cicadas, shield bugs, and various agricultural pests.  This of course leads us to a thrilling linguistic question:  how did the term bug become a stand-in for all insects?  Personally I find both diptera and hymenoptera to be a bigger nuisance, yet no one ever calls an aphid a fly or a wasp.  Many people know the story about Grace Hopper and “bug” entering computer lingo, but how did it become the norm in the first place?

At least Vincent didn’t pull a Will Shortz.  Once on the NPR Sunday Puzzle he referred to spiders as insects.  When asked to correct himself the next week, he replied “Oh my bad, I should have said spiders are bugs”.

And finally, an awful virology pun:

Question:  What is both a type of nuclear weapon and an exclamation from Beatrice Hahn* when she locates a potential viral sample from chimps?

Answer:  “ICBM”



*Substitute another field biologist if the joke is too obscure, but she is the only one that comes to mind when I picture falling feces.  🙂

Nathan writes:

Dear Esteemed TWIV hosts,

Thank you for a great podcast!  Keep up the great work.  

Attached is an interesting paper about viruses several hundred feet under the ocean floor.  It would be great to have a discussion on a future episode.

It’s 47oF and sunny in Chapel Hill.

Joshua writes:

Hello, my name is Joshua, I’m 23 years old and I really want to be a microbiologist, but I don’t think I’d be able to handle the actual work at a job because I have a learning disability. I have borderline impaired working memory capacity; this basically means I can’t hold much information at all in my head and working with a set of information is very difficult and slow for me. I would appreciate if you would read this email and tell me if someone with my disability would be able to perform the day to day tasks of a Microbiologist, also please tell me what kinds of cognitive tasks a microbiologist does day to day. I would also appreciate other contacts/professors/scientists that I can talk to about this.

One example of how my impaired working memory capacity affects me is my ability to make decisions, I’m slow to consider all the options and each of their consequences. Another, is that, in school, I couldn’t takes notes because I can’t both listen to a stream of information while focusing on what to write or I’ll lose my place and forget or just completely miss what was said. If someone tells me a list of things I won’t be able to think of the whole list at once, I’ll need to write it down and then wait until I remember all the parts to complete writing the list. When my working memory is full I get completely stuck, new or related ideas have no room to fit into my memory so things stop occurring to me, I sometimes can’t recall my memories if they’re complex like a story or contain a lot of parts and I can’t think well and need some time to clear my head.

How well do you think a person like me could perform at being a microbiologist? Do you think I would be able to advance in this career? Who else can I talk to about what cognitive tasks a microbiologist does day to day? I would appreciate any info, contacts and, advice and thank you very much for reading my letter.


P.S. If you want a really good idea of how my learning disability works you can try a dual N-back test that requires you to remember two streams of information and if they repeat you press a key to mark it. An average person should be able to get a consistent 100% on “2-back” once they learn the rules. I can not perform this test at 2-back. I get 20%, I get 30%, I get zeros; I’m basically Guessing.

Kim writes:

Hello there TWIV team,

As many other graduate (and international) students, I see myself on a teaching assistant position this semester. I teach the “Phage Hunters Lab” at Washington State University (part of the SEA-PHAGES program) and I gotta say it’s a pretty sweet gig. Undergraduate students brave the inclement tundra we live in (I may be imagining it but Pullman’s had quite the rough winter) and collect soil samples to try isolate bacteriophages from the environment. If successful, we get to characterize these phages (TEM, endonuclease restriction analysis, sequencing) and even get to name them before uploading them to PhageDB. The idea behind it all is to keep students engaged and provide them with authentic, hands-on experience on the scientific method. Now, I’m not the brightest apple in the orchard (see what I did there? Apple State, anyone?) but even I have to admit that we all (specially the “phage parents” which are the labmates that isolate phage) get teary eyes and swell with pride whenever we see plaques…what a great time to be alive!

I listened to “TWiV 428: Lyse globally, protect locally” and will share it with my students so they can get inspired and start working on their Lab report. Most of them are hung up on the idea of using phages to control antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This paper is a good way to show them that not everything is roses in the phage dimension.

Sorry for the long email and please keep fighting the good fight. Best,

Kim Lam Chiok

Graduate Student

Department of Veterinary Microbiology & Pathology

College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University

Pullman WA

P.S. Here’s a link for the SEA-PHAGES program:

YY writes:

Hello TWiV,

I have just started learning about viruses as a graduate student and I have a question about dsRNA viruses that maybe TWiV may be able to answer — do dsRNA viruses always have linear genome? Are there any viruses that contains circular dsRNA genome, or closed dsRNA genome? (Such as a continuous strand of RNA is folded to dsRNA by base-pairing, hence creating 2 (or more) stems.)

It seems that dsRNA are quite different than other viruses, which is quite fascinating to me. Although it seems that there are way less research or literature discuss dsRNA viruses.

Thank you. Looking forward to your response.

Best regards,


Ricardo writes:

Hello Twiv friends. Just sending a confort message. I hope I’m not the 27th (I’m listening one week later 430), but if I am, it will be an honor to have a book from your shelf.

My best regards

Ricardo Magalhães

Judy writes:

Dear TWIV Team,

This is my first time writing in but I am a big fan of the podcast. I am graduate student in Terry Dermody’s lab, recently moved to the University of Pittsburgh and settling in. This past week as I was catching up in the episodes during my plaque assays (see attached), I listened to TWIV episode 428. It was almost serendipitous because as I was infecting  my assay you mentioned that you couldn’t imagine how someone could do a plaque assay and listen to Twiv at the same time. Then during the discussion of “Regional astrocyte IFN signaling restricts pathogenesis during neurotropic viral infection” Vincent jokingly mentioned “and a summary for all those doing plaque assays.” I laughed out loud and thought what a great addition to the episode- a summary of an in depth paper and talking points in case you missed anything. Finally, Kathy’s timing was perfect because just as I was overlaying she said “we know you are finishing up your plaque assays.” So thanks for keeping me company in the lonely hood during my 200 plate assays. Vincent- I hope you would be proud.

Thanks all!


Jarrett writes:

Hello all,

Just writing (again) to put myself in the running for a copy of Emerging Infections. Spring is certainly under way here in Austin, as the Redbud trees are in bloom. We have three varieties of this lovey tree in Texas; the Eastern, Texas and Mexican Redbud trees are all native to the area. Current temperature is a balmy 71 F. Looks like we’re in for a sweltering summer.


-Jarrett H.

Austin, TX

Megan writes:

Dear TwiV cohort,

I hope I am number 27 for the Emerging Infections book contest! I have been listening to TwiV since 2009, and have been hooked ever since.

I want to thank the TwiV team for providing knowledge in the wonderful world of viruses, and keeping my sanity in check. I am a recovering academic who is looking for a new career in virology or bioinformatics research in the industry or a non-profit organization. In times like these I am particular grateful to have TwiV as an old friend, where I can learn about the latest virology research from you all with humor and wit.

Besides all the TwiX podcasts, I also regularly listen to the wonderful Public Health United, 99% Invisible, RadioLab, the Sporkful (which occasionally features Fred Alt’s son Kenji), and the Hilarious World of Depression.  

The weather in Pittsburgh, PA is a rainy and unseasonably warm day at 15°C (59°F). Thank you for all your great work, and keeping TwiVing!

Best Regards, Megan.

David writes:

Dear Vincent,

I hope I have become the 27th listener to write in to win the emerging infections book.  Or if not, that I surpassed the limit so that some other person is lucky enough to get the book contest.

I think that most of the members in your audience have some scientific inclination – and that probably means they are all making estimated guesses how long they have to wait to win.

Thanks for the countless hours of viral fun!

Kind regards,


Matthew writes:

Dear Vincent and the TWiV-viridae

Hopefully by now you have already received the 27th email but if not this will you bring you one email closer! I am an undergraduate student from Northern Ireland studying Biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast and I’m currently on my placement year working in industry. I listen to TWiV each day during my lunch break in order to keep my brain active and learn new things as in work I have done the same tasks day in day out for 9 months so TWiV is the only opportunity I have to quench my thirst for knowledge. Although I haven’t been a listener for too long (I think the first episode I listened to was 418) my first encounter with Vincent’s work goes back further than this! In the second year of my degree I was given the choice to pick a module, either Virology or Genetic Systems. I decided to pick Virology as I had come across Vincent’s lectures on Coursera and although I did not do the course at that time I downloaded all the videos so that I could use them when I started the module. Queen’s had some really good virology lecturers, particularly Dr Ultan Power who made sure to emphasise the importance of having an understanding of virology rather than just being able to recall processes and facts. In his first lecture he showed a graph of marks obtained vs pupil attendance and when it became clear that a lot of people failed the module every year I did notice a drop in class numbers as people frantically switched to Genetic Systems! I think at the end of one of another lecturers notes a TWiV episode was mentioned as extra reading and I admit I never did check it out at the time but at least I am here now! However I would have to say it was Vincent’s Coursera lectures and YouTube videos which made me really interested in Virology as a subject, I ended up revising for the exam pretty much only using Vincent’s videos (luckily using information not found in the his lecture material was encouraged by Dr Power) and I could not have got 70% in that module without them. Listening to TWiV has further peaked my interest and when I start back to university in September I am hoping to see if I could do something virology related for my Honours project but even if I am not able to I believe one of the modules I will have to do is virology related so at least I have that to look forward to.

And last but not least it is a normal March day here in Northern Ireland with I think the temperature being around 7’C, not too cold but not warm either! Keep up the good work with the podcast and thank you all for being so informative, entertaining and dedicated to the field of virology.

Kind Regards

Kevin writes:

Dear TWiVumvirate,

Here’s a listener pick. I think it’s lovely, and I suspect that all you TWIV hosts will agree.



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