Islam writes:

I just wanted to say thank you for recording a TWiV episode on the Friday after Thanksgiving when pretty much everybody else was holidaying. Thanks for making my Mondays wonderful!

By the way, I love Rich’s statement about his career in science. Respect!

Please tell Dickson that I printed out the 8 flu segments on a 3D printer already with help from a brilliant PhD student in my previous group at MIT. They are not magnetic though, but it is fun shuffling them around to mimic reassortment.


Ed Rybicki writes:

I am convinced there are a LOT of fungal and plant viruses that do the crossover thing: plants were the obvious hosts for fungi when both crawled out onto dry land; it is obvious that they would have been able to exchange viruses – and I note this: “Endornaviruses (genus Endornavirus) are double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses that infect plants, fungi, and oomycetes which have recently been given family status “.

TMV has also been shown to replicate in fungi; BMV replicates in yeast; certain animal viruses (eg: flock house virus) can replicate in plant cells but not spread…it’s not unusual, is what I’m saying, and we WILL find a lot more evidence for it.

Diane writes:

Hello Professors TWiV!

Thank you for a wonderful show. I look forward to each episode. I enjoy the group dynamics and so am always a little bummed when it is a travel episode. That is, I’m disappointed until I start listening, and then I’m so fascinated by the various interviewees that I ended up loving those episodes too. When you first started your Patreon account, I immediately signed on, for I have gotten so much pleasure from listening to all the TWiX podcasts, it’s definitely worth paying for.

In re the discussion of long working hours, I would love to hear from Kathy and other female PIs. Jon Yewdell and his son both said that in order to be successful in the lab, you need a good wife, or words to that effect. That was so off-putting for me. I would be interested in hearing about how your spouses managed their own careers. Vincent, you have mentioned many times that your wife is a scientist as well, do you mind talking about the logistics of raising a family with two working scientists? How many spouses (what percentage) of PIs have intense careers of their own? Does marrying a passionate scientist often mean giving up on one’s own career? I think it has been established that in two-income families, the wife tends to do disproportionately more work around the home. That must include female PIs. How have they managed? In any event, the discussion is fascinating and I look forward to hearing more.

As for me, I’m an oncology/chemotherapy nurse. I don’t remember how I stumbled onto TWiV, but I did and I have gotten hours and hours of pleasure listening and learning. Many times the papers are far above my head, but there’s enough other “stuff” that I can’t wait to tune in every week. I also listen to TWiP, TWiM and the thrilling new Immune. LOVE that show! I also listen to various oncology-related podcasts, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, The Gist, StarDate, Still Processing, On the Media and The Kicker. (Sometimes I can’t stay current with all these podcasts!).

Thank you for a great family of podcasts,



p.s. I have been meaning to write to TWiP as well because I listened to the entire back catalog. When I was listening to Episode 100, my husband walked in right as Dickson started a sentence saying “As a teacher of parasites…” and, without missing a beat, my husband said,”Huh. I wouldn’t think parasites would need a teacher.” (rim shot) Thought you would enjoy. Thanks again! 🙂

Raihan writes:

Hi TWiV hosts,

Thanks for reading my follow up to TWiV 468 and for letting me pour my heart out. I’ll take the advice to “not Beat myself up too hard’ and just continue working.

Prof Condit asked at which stage in my career I am. I am currently a post-doc in Saudi AraBia at King ABdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

I’m loving the work here But my contract is coming to an end and my children are starting school Back in our native Singapore in January, so I’m currently on the joB hunt.

I’m a little sad that Prof Condit forgot aBout me, especially since I wrote in to TWiV previously to express my appreciation of him. Please see Below, point number 4 (highlighted). *sad face

Best regards,


PS: I’m joking By the way. I can’t expect you all to rememBer every detail of every writer. But I’m glad Prof Racaniello rememBered aBout my love for Influenza B viruses!! We Both did our Ph.Ds in Flu B and that puts us in special cluB (wanted to use Brotherhood But that’s too Bigoted).

I’ah writes:

Hey there TWiVers!

So, the last few episodes have heavily featured critical conversations regarding academia and the scientific publishing industries and – as a Masters by Research student – I have found it both incredibly insightful and daunting. I do not exactly fit the “early stage career” perspective Rich was calling out for, however, I do feel my experiences would provide insight of what it is like to even get yourself to the PhD stage. I have been thinking long and hard about what I would like to contribute to this discussion and if my experiences would be relatable to other TWiV listeners. Here goes!

Before I divulge my story – I would firstly like to thank you all for fanning the flames my passion – or  “obsession”, as you frequently call it – for virology! I have recently changed my part-time work schedule to very early mornings so I now have time to listen to TWiV again. It feels like quite the cosmic intervention (!) and has motivated and reminded me of why I am working so hard, at a time I needed it the most.

I come from a large, “working-class” family and grew up in the outskirts of London, UK and went to average state schools, achieving decent grades and accolades along the way. As a kid, I was always obsessively interested in how and why things worked the way they did. Luckily, I had, and still have, very supportive parents who accommodated my curiosities as best they could (think: encyclopaedias, mini microscopes, endless trips to museums, saying “oh, that’s interesting, dear” to repeated ‘cool facts’). It was during high school that I decided I wanted to get a PhD (admittedly completely ignorant of what happens post-PhD). I wanted, and still want, to know everything about how [insert problem here] works. Luckily, I have a stubborn determination that has not yet failed me. I studied Biomedical Sciences as an undergrad, and during those years discovered that viruses were seriously cool (!) and recognised they lead the way in understanding molecular biology and immunology – with the guidance of a fantastic BSc mentor, Prof. Steve Goodbourn. Currently, I am working on dengue virus-host interactions, and it is everything I wanted it to be and has me so excited about the research I can do and be part of in the future. Yet, there are still days where I think: “What the hell am I doing?” – I could be earning more money by now if I had chosen a different career path – but I am up before dawn, working a menial job, to get myself through my post-grad studies.

That brings me to something I feel has been missing from the conversation – personal circumstances and how they are treated by the “system” shall we say. Whilst we’re immersing ourselves in our studies/research, Life (with a capital L) happens and can seriously throw you off kilter. Mental and /or physical health can take a battering when you are trying to juggle keeping your grades, bank balance and social life high. I am sure many people can relate to that, whatever stage they are at in their career. The issue for me, and many others, is the general attitude to those that cannot keep their personal issues from bubbling over into their work life. Just in listening to people speak about those that are off work for the nth time you can hear the disdain and judgement which subconsciously makes me worry that if it all gets too much for me, I will also be judged for taking time out to recover. How I think this relates to all that has been said regarding tenure track, high-impact publications etc is stress. In TWiV 468, Amy rightly expressed her frustrations about getting a faculty position and it really struck a chord with me. These are the things I worry about when thinking: “is this really what I want to do?” “Can I really cope with the constant pressure to be better than everyone else?” I will probably never be as good a scientist as Amy (hey, look – comparison to others!) but I still aspire to a career in academic research. My perspective at the moment is: can I face the financial stress to get through another degree and maintain my sanity? Many academic institutions are now publicising extra mental health support and offering various courses on coping strategies but all that is worthless if the general attitudes of academics themselves remains the same – judgemental and unsupportive.

Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say is that there are a whole host of non-academic issues many grad students have to overcome before they even get to Post-Doc level and the job uncertainty thereafter is a massive source of stress and mental fatigue. Whilst I realise the work week debate is in regards to paid academic staff, I feel it is important to note that many grad students are also relied upon to carry out research for publication (especially in small labs). Many take this on whilst working (an)other job(s) to fund their living expenses and that can also impact their productivity even if they are in the lab 40 hours per week. Maybe this is more of an issue in the UK (how well funded are Masters programs in the US?) but I feel it is important to raise it anyway. FYI, I am in the lab roughly 40 hours/week and work part-time 10-12 hours per week.

Lastly, I think Vincent spoke about the fact there are no established “research technician” career pathways, which is a shame as it would be a great way to keep people in academia that perhaps do not want or have the immense responsibility of running a lab and small team, but are highly skilled at running experiments etc.

Alas, I am working on a PhD application as it is still something I want to do with all my heart – but I might have to “grow up” and get a “real job” first so that I can afford to do it! With all the negative things I have mentioned, I want to emphasise that I am still hopeful and optimistic that I can achieve my academic goals.

Best wishes and keep up the amazing work – I am so thankful for it!

I’ah (pron. Eye-ah) Donovan-Banfield

Masters student at University of Bristol, UK

Jake writes:

Hi viro-profs,

Please put my name in the hat for the current book contest.

I also wanted to add a couple of my reactions to the arc about academic work ethic, being obsessed with science, and so on — specifically from the last two episodes, 468 and 469:

The emotion and frustration, and near despair, that was in Amy’s voice in 468 was so evident and familiar to me. As a postdoc 3.5 years on from my 6-year PhD, I feel absolutely stymied by the academic pyramid scheme, and if I think too much about it I’ll also become incredibly emotional. When I was starting grad school, I was fully on board to be obsessed and to spend 80 hours a week in lab. Now, I’m so jaded and disappointed with “the game” that I have a very hard time staying motivated to even work a 40 hour week. Honestly, I would be so much more motivated at this point in my life to work an 80 hour week writing grants, managing a lab, mentoring junior scientists, giving talks and networking with other PIs than being where I am: stuck doing approximately the same types of work as I was doing 10 years ago as an undergrad researcher (i.e. robotically moving small amounts of liquid around).

What I’m getting at is that it’s not just ridiculous that Science and Nature papers are the key to achieving a tenure-track faculty position, it’s even more ridiculous that we trainees are expected to suddenly become good grant-writers and mentors when the training is 80 hours of wet lab work. All this for 1/3 the salary of our colleagues in industry.

I’ve been listening to TWiX for 5 and a half years, and I think those and other podcasts are the only reason I haven’t completely lost my mind — thank you for the new immunology one, by the way! — but over that time I don’t feel like any progress has been made in addressing these issues in academia. If anything, they’ve seemingly gotten worse, even before the current presidential administration took office.

I don’t know exactly how, but maybe someday this podcast can help be a vehicle for change. Maybe if enough listeners and other scientists get on board, we could get organized and figure out a way to produce a better system for academic research. I’m at the point of frustration with the current system that I would definitely be willing to devote the rest of my career to creating a better one.



Joseph writes:

Greetings TWiV hosts!

I’m writing to contribute my non-data driven and perhaps purely anecdotal thoughts on productivity and hours worked based on my own experiences – I don’t agree that working more leads to increased productivity.

During my Ph.D., I worked the typical 80 hour work weeks (mostly….) which were jammed packed with experiments, time for data analysis, paper reading, more experiment planning, and free lunches at seminars on Fridays. The general impression I got from my PI was that those long hours were not necessary to succeed if you planned really well and were excellent with things like time-management and focus. But by and large, the more time spent in the lab at the bench the more data would be produced and, potentially, lead to more publications. (Side note: I think I’m on the Jon Yewdell Science Family Tree somewhere since my PhD advisor, Ike Eisenlohr, was Jon’s first post-doc…or one of his first. So I’m not surprised that this message was/is similar though I’m sure each has their own spin!). I finished with one first author publication in JVI- which I was really proud of because of the amount of work that went into building the project from the ground up. Maybe if I picked a different project I would have more first author publications from my PhD studies, but I’m happy with that work.

Things began to change when I took a post-doc at a small biotechnology company called Immunotope. There I worked more modest 40-50 hour work weeks. The nature of the work was more translational, more stream-lined which helped with the hours part of the job. And there I was more successful in my publications: two first author research papers, a first author review, and a book chapter out for review now. These publications were in journals that favored more translational research and weren’t as high impact as some others, but I’m still happy about them. As much as a Nature or Science paper would be incredible, sometimes the fact that the data told an interesting story is enough, at least for me.

In the fall of 2014, I retired my pipettes and culture flasks to become an Instructor in Biology at Villanova University. My role now is strictly teaching (plus other faculty things like advising, committees etc.) and I’ve even morphed from a viral immunologist to an organismal biologist teaching Human A&P and Histology. Now, my work week is roughly 40+ hours on campus plus an hour or so at night and on the weekends…grading, lecture prep etc. If I try to push myself for too long during the week, I can feel my thoughts becoming cloudy and I’m more likely to not give my full attention to whatever I’m doing at the time. I’ve learned to walk away from the computer and lecture preparations to do things that are more meaningful for my peace of mind that are not science related (though admittedly I do think about work and ways to communicate information to students in more meaningful ways more than the hours here probably represent).

What I’ve learned over the years is that a work-life balance is necessary. There needs to be some mental decompression to stay sharp and focused while you are in the lab or planning/analyzing etc. I also feel more productive and creative at work since figuring out this work-life balance issue. But boy I don’t know….if I were looking for an academic position as a PI, I’d be working a lot more just because of the competitive nature of science. Ultimately as scientists we’re pulled from multiple directions and have to find our own middle ground. For me that middle ground is a less intense work week hour wise, for someone else it could be a more intense week. I’m looking forward to hearing some other views on this.

And finally the weather in Villanova, PA today was a nice 59F (15C) and, much like Rich, I did not get outside!

– Joe         

Joseph Comber Ph.D.

Instructor, Biology/Human Anatomy and Physiology

Mendel Science Center, Room G24D

Villanova University

Steen writes:

Your contest end date happens to be my official start date at Rutgers. I hope to make a pilgrimage to the TWiV studio some time.



Islam writes:

Dear TWiVers,

It is my first time to enter a book contest. Maybe I will be the lucky one!

TWiV gives a meaning to my life. Thanks very much for all what you do.

By the way, the picks are missing from the show notes of TWiV 468.



Basel writes:

Hi Dr. Racaniello,

I’ll start with the more straightforward part; please count me in for the Viruses book.

Now the more cool part, which is part of my listener’s pick. The Zika-focused TWiV episode is timely as I was recently reviewing a histopathology slide of Zika infection in mouse.

Please check the following link for a a whole slide scan, with free access, courtesy of The Joint Pathology Center (previously AFIP; Armed Forces Institute of Pathology):

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you as well as many listeners to the Veterinary Systemic Pathology Online (VSPO) and Wednesday Slide Conference (WSC). These are amazing resources that are free to access, but hold tremendous amount of data and knowledge within them, not to mention the countless hours spent on making and maintaining these 2 resources.

For the virologists here (but also any microbiologists and even any biologist) you can find well detailed and annotated slide scans and reviews of many diseases, including viral infections of domestic and laboratory animals, as well as many tumors and degenerative diseases.

You can search by disease condition, animal species, organ system, and even filter by Viral, Fungal, Bacterial infection and so on…

VSPO is more annotated and covers many “classic” pathologies. WSC however is loaded with more up to date pathologies, such as this Zika slide scan.

As a good and fun example for the utility of VSPO, I’m attaching an image of Negri bodies from the brain of a rabid skunk.

I hope you and everyone else find it useful and really put it to a good use.

Shout out to JPC and all veterinary pathologists out there 🙂


Tom writes:


Does it help that I am a Patreon supporter? Didn’t think so.

I have been listening since @profvrr was on Futures in Biotech (May 4, 2009 episode). TWiV and TWiM are almost always of interest, but TWiEvo is my current favorite. The podcasts stimulate my imagination like science fiction, but the more disciplined thinking helps my analytic capability. Now with 100% confidence I say pithy things like “you can’t get flu from a flu shot”, “vaccines are only for serious diseases”, and “you should wash that with bleach.”

I have a podcast called Function. It is about art and engineering, but we also talk about office supplies and stationery. or on iTunes.

If I win, please send the book to:

Tom Anderson

886 Holly Ave

Rohnert Park, CA 94928

Listener pick, if you need one: a podcast called “Food Safety Talk.”

Trudy writes:

Dear TWiVers,

It’s not often that I have actually read the TWiV paper BEFORE you guys discuss it on the show. Oh, who am I kidding, it only happened this once!  Anyway, it was a pleasure to listen to TWiV 468 with Amy Rosenfeld. I’m very fascinated by the Zika story and love how quickly our understanding of this virus has progressed over the last couple of years.  

In follow-up to Vincent’s pick of Nick Lane’s book about Oxygen, I would like to recommend a book by Steven Johnson called The Invention of Air. This book chronicles the story of Joseph Priestley and his discovery of oxygen. As you may know, Steven Johnson is the author of The Ghost Map, probably one of my very favorite microbiological detective stories. I had the pleasure of seeing Steven Johnson give a talk at Emory many years ago, and I must say that he is almost as gifted at telling stories as Dickson Despommier.    

Kind Regards,


Sven writes:

Hei guys,

a short email to try to win the book 🙂

And also a couple of small comments regarding what was said in episode 468 regarding the fact that if you want a job you need papers, and especially some in nature/science/cell…

I am on the old continent, and never lived in the states, so not sure how is the situation over there. However, I can guaranty you that here everybody does not count cell/nature papers when receiving an application, even though it may be because I am working in a more environmental field, where the pressure is lower.

Therefore, when Amy said something like “you guys had the opportunity to change things but did not do [….] I need papers in big journals to get jobs”, I find that a bit hypocrite. It is easy to blame the others for not changing the system. Everybody can make a choice to go for open access. A good CV can have several other strong assets than just the journals cited in it.

And then I forgot who said that having these top journal filters help when selecting through several hundreds of applications and that it would take a lot of time to really go through the applications… Well, yes… nobody ever said it would be easy… but if one wants to bring down the awful system on which scientific carrier is based right now everybody will have to do his bit. The selection work can also be shared among several persons, or the description of the requisites can be more specific to lower the amount of applicants. There are definitively other ways to do selections.

Anyway. Great job with the podcast. Always a pleasure to listen to you.

Cheers from Bergen, Norway, where it is freaking cold and dark, but beautiful 🙂

Kevin writes:

Hello TWIVsters,

I don’t really have anything to say, just wanted to enter the contest.

All best wishes,


Marianne writes:

Hi TWiV team;

As always happy to listen along during my commute.

Also very happy to see the launch of Immune – if you ever need a researcher in the front lines Cancer Immunotherapy to sit in, let me know.

I did have one quick follow up regarding the last episode where I think Alan mentions that Biotech for PhD’s is basically a PI position in a different setting. I’d really like to respectfully disagree. I am a VP Research at a biotech company in Canada. I think I am better suited to my research position in biotech than I could ever be as an academic, partially due to my wide area of interest and my varied research background that never quite allowed me to find my niche . During my training I moved across very different fields, often because I always followed research I could be passionate about, and I was never intimidated by entering a new area. My current position requires me to be up to date in many different areas of research, including immunology, virology, microbiology, parasitism (a big reason why I keep current in all podcasts), as well as being versed in business, quality, clinical research and investor relations. My background in science outreach has served me very well communicating our science to the public. I often refer to what I do as a ‘Jack of all trades; master of some’, and this is exactly what I find exciting about the potential of research. I would be feel stifled by following a single line of research that was dictated by funding opportunities, which I think some people may find ironic as there is a perception that all companies by nature have very narrow research aims. Generally people don’t quite understand the quality of basic research in small and medium biotech, as they assume all discoveries are made in academic labs and all drugs are developed only by Big Pharma. It kind of misses a big space in between where a lot of cool things are happening.



Anthony writes:

Please enter my email in the TWiV 468 contest for the book Viruses by Michael Cordingley.

Thank you.

Johannes writes:

Greetings from Perth, Australia, getting ready for 30 degrees C at 4 in the afternoon 😉

Andy writes:

Dear Dr R and team,

First of all, thanks for all the work you do on the TWiX series; I’ve been listening for around five years now. I started when I was getting my MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases, and found your podcasts an engaging and entertaining way to see some things from a more microbe-centric view.

I’m now nearing the end of my PhD at the Royal Veterinary College (London, UK) looking at how the microbiota affects the outcome of streptococcal infection in a zebrafish model. As I’m more of an immunologist by previous training, the discussions and papers on your podcasts have been great for me.

Anyway, as you can tell by the subject line of this email, I was motivated to write in because of the Viruses textbook giveaway. I reckon we’ll one day come to appreciate the virome in a similar way we do the microbiome. This book would be really great to brush up on, and expand, my virus knowledge.

Thanks again for everything

Best wishes

Robbie writes:

Hi all,

I’m writing in for the book give away.

The December 1st deadline coincides perfectly with my Ph.D. applications being due and gives me an excuse to procrastinate a little bit more.



E. Bryan writes:

“Write whatever you want.”

Thanks for the opportunity to enter to win, twivarium.

Keep up the good work,


Richard writes:

Twiv Docs,

> Thank you for the great episode on Zika Research. I enjoyed Dr. Rosenfeld’s assertive views on journal publications. It demonstrates the diversity of views and the reality of surviving in academia. From my perspective, research and the academic competition for advancement can seem more like a knife fight than a collegial refuge for independent thought. Thanks to Dr. Amy for your candor and the incredibly complex research on Zika and its complications.

> Hope I am the randomized winner of the book.

> Rich Schoenbaum, D.D.S.

> Culver City, CA

Sarah writes:

I hope I’m the selected number!!!

Sarah K. White, MPH, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate, Lednicky Lab

Department of Environmental and Global Health // College of Public Health and Health Professions

Gainesville, Florida

John writes:

Hej TWIV-team,

I’m writing this email whilst listening to you talk about how getting a career in research is so tough. I am a 3rd year Microbiology  undergraduate student from Sweden doing my degree in Glasgow, Scotland.

Of course I feel worried about getting myself a career within research. But what concerns me even more is how badly we, the students, are informed about how competitive it is. I do realise that it might scare many of us, and so less students would aim at a research career. However, I believe there can be a backlash where students with huge loans graduate and expect jobs to be available. Instead, they are hit with immense competition resulting in even fewer taking the fight and going into research.

I have you to thank as I did not realise just how tough it is until I started listening to your podcast. I am still aiming to go into research simply because I find it so incredibly satisfying to be a part of new discoveries and expand on our knowledge of the world. University of Glasgow has given me the opportunity to do a work placement in industry for a year, and I have just been accepted for a placement at Institute Pasteur in Paris. Which I am very excited about. I wonder if you might have any advice for me, to make the most out of my year working alongside researchers?

Thank you for the great podcasts which makes procrastination not feel as bad. Always a pleasure listening to you. Kör hårt! (“Keep up the good work” in Swedish)

John writes:

Hi TWiVers,

Since I’m biology-training impaired, I have difficulty with some of the terminology in the TWiX family of podcasts.

Leaving aside (if just for a moment) the fantastic Parasitic Diseases 6ed that I lean heavily on for TWiP, I have found the following biology books from the OpenStax collaboration at Rice University to be very helpful for techniques, technology, jargon and pretty pictures. They are available via amazon or freely available in pdf format and are peer-reviewed.

Biology –

A book for science majors

Concepts of Biology –

A book for non-science majors

Microbiology –

A microbiology book for non-majors

Anatomy and Physiology –

A book for a human anatomy and physiology course for life science.

They also offer textbooks for Algebra, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, American Government, US History and AP courses. The OpenStax group are philanthropically funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Hewlett Foundation (among others) and provide tutor and online material in addition to the textbooks.

More information at the FAQ –

Thanks and regards,

John in Limerick,

where the weather over the weekend was wet and windy (with 50mm or rain and gusts of 130kmph) thanks to Atlantic storm Brian.