Letter of Support: BLM

Dear CIDD community:

On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd was murdered by a police officer.

This is another case of systemic discrimination and violence against the Black community. In the face of such grievous injustice, the Black community and its allies are refusing to be powerless and are in the streets demanding justice. Historically, police officers who have committed similar crimes have escaped justice, but due to the bravery of protestors, the police officers responsible have been taken into custody. Murders like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and even in our local community, Osaze Osagie make clear what Black Americans have known since our founding: we exist in an oppressive and unjust system. We must no longer be passive.

As the CGSA board, we completely support the protests and all actions taken in fighting racism. Further, we acknowledge that academia is not free from the systemic racism that is ingrained in our society. Within our own community, there have been incidents where concerns raised by Black graduate students have not been addressed. As graduate students, we must act, even when the university does not. We must first listen and amplify the concerns of our Black colleagues. Most importantly, we must collectively stand up against people who exclude our Black colleagues and do not respect them as valuable members of our community. Black students must be given the resources and respect to thrive in academia – we emphasize that admittance is performative without retention. We, as early-career scientists, may feel powerless in academia, but we are not. We must be unified and vigilant in the fight against racism.

As the CGSA board, we will focus specifically on equity in our programming, recruitment and retention efforts going forward. We will be reaching out to the community for feedback, please look for a separate email soon. We urge you to take action – additional resources can be found below.

Take action.

Black lives matter.


Emily Howerton, Co-President

Alexandre Blake, Co-President

Allyson Ray, Vice President

Ellie Mainou, Secretary

Hannah Greenberg Tiffin, Synopsis coordinator

Damie Pak, Treasurer

Fhallon Ware-Gilmore, Webmaster

Zeinab Elmasri, Social chair

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CIDD Town Hall on Safe Return to Work

Notes from the CIDD Town Hall conducted on June 10th, 2020.

3 page document on the Huck Sharepoint with return process summary

  • Only be on campus when running experiments and as needed otherwise
  • Can open conference rooms for overflow workspace if needed (for those who need to be in labs)
  • Need coordination among groups, especially within MSC due to open space and shared resources (ex: autoclaves)
    • There are now shared calendars among PI’s and labs in the MSC (you can ask your PI to be added)
    • Procedures in place and sign-up sheet for when you were in the lab
    • Coordinate with PI(s) of non-Huck equipment shared across labs (ex. qPCR machines)
    • If you’re not sure how to properly clean equipment, ask your PI or Moriah Szpara
  • Movement in MSC
    • Recommendation: Limit your movement and use the most direct route, be aware of personal space of yourself and others
    • Example: (If your office is near the front door, use the front door. But if your lab is further away, use the middle corridor)
    • Contact tracing states that one must be in the same space for >10 minutes to be a potential “contact”
    • Don’t chat in hallways
  • MSC Building reopening date not yet defined, but expected in approximately 2 weeks
  • Encouraging people to eat outside when possible, bring a lunch to avoid fridges/microwaves; no food brought into lab areas for now
  • No limits on when workers can be in MSC, but encourage a “buddy system” at all times
  • Information on cloth masks to be sent out (below)


If you are uncomfortable returning to work or have concerns not addressed today you can reach out to your PI, Beth McGraw, or Michael Uchneat. You can also go to Beth, Mike, or HR if there are items you are uncomfortable about, cannot address with your PI or if your PI will not address these

  • This includes specific concerns like daycare or caretaker needs, individual medical needs and concerns, etc.


Additional resources

Here’s the latest link to the Northwestern study from Mueller et al. (now at v4), that Beth previously sent to the CIDD-listserv, back when the first preprint was highlighted in an NPR news piece. It has quantitative data comparing a number of homemade cloth masks, and documents improvement in efficacy w/ a nylon (i.e. stocking) over-layer. The PDF for this one is also attached below.

I’ve also attached a good & highly readable study testing efficacy of homemade masks, by Davies et al. Though the ’n’ of tested individuals was small, it is a good example of how to think about this. The PDF for this one is also attached below.


For those who want to get into the gritty details (no pun intended)), this is a good literature review from U. of Minnesota:

And here are two more good preprints, with different merits:
Wilson et al, w/ more data quantitating different cloth-mask types:  https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0195670120302760
Liang et al, w/ a meta-analysis & review of other studies on this topic:  https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1477893920302301

Finally, here’s an example from the primary literature of healthcare workers in Vietnam who were asked to wear different mask types. Keep in mind that with this & similar “field” (i.e. hospital / front line) studies, the level of exposure & ambient pathogens in the air is FAR higher than what we expect to be in ambient air in MSC.

Physical Distancing Article from Dr.McGraw:





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New 2020/21 CGSA officers elected

We’re excited to announce the new 2020/21 CIDD Grad Student Association officers. Congratulations to the incoming board, and a warm thank you to past officers. As always, if Faculty, Students and Post-docs would like to pass along useful information, organize a student focus group to tackle a CIDD issue or co-ordinate professional and technical workshops in the future, please reach out to the relevant officers below or to Dr. Ottar Bjornstad, the Faculty- Student liaison.

CGSA 2020/21 officers:
President: Alexandre Blake (Bharti lab) and Emily Howerton (Shea lab).
Vice President: Allyson Ray (Grozinger/ Rasgon labs)
Secretary: Ellie Mainou (Conway lab)
Synopsis co-ordinator: Hannah Greenberg Tiffin (Machtinger lab)
Treasurer: Damie Pak (Bjornstad lab)
Webmaster: Fhallon Ware- Gilmore (McGraw lab)
Social chair: Zeinab Elmasri (Jose lab)

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Grad Students present research at Feb 20th CIDD seminar

Three graduate students presented their research at the CIDD Thursday seminar on Feb 20th. Presentations can be of an ongoing project or of a research proposal related to infectious disease. These talks are well attended by a (friendly) mix of CIDD students, post-docs and faculty audience, and are great for public speaking practice and feedback. Molly Rathbun from the Szpara Lab discussed the direct sequencing of HSV-1 reveals a role for within-host genetic diversity in transmission. Dominika Dec Peevey of the Bjornstad and Ferrari Labs presented on West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania game lands: woodland pool risk assessment for Culex restuans breeding. Finally, Antal Martinecz from the Zur Wiesch Lab talked about the high peak rifampicin plasma concentrations accelerate the slow phase of bacterial elimination in tuberculosis patients. Thank you to Alexandre Blake, Landon vom Stieg and Leah Sigle for helping to plan this event.

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Student wins Daniel M. Jobbins scholarship

CGSA President Karen Kemirembe

Congratulations to our current CGSA president, Karen Kemirembe for winning the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association Daniel M. Jobbins Scholarship for her work on Sex Specific responses of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae to a mosquito borne Alphavirus infection. 

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Uncovering how parasites and hosts respond to multi-species infections and external perturbations

Two Graphidium strigosum mating

A new research synopsis entitled “Uncovering how parasites and hosts respond to multi-species infections and external perturbations” by Ellen Brandel has been published on CIDDTV. The synopsis covers main findings from a rabbit-helminth study by Dr. Isabella Cattadori, Dr. Matthew Ferrari of Penn State, and Dr. Ashutosh Pathak of University of Georgia on how external disturbances such as coinfection and treatment affect the parasite dynamics as well as the host’s immune responses.

Link to the synopsis: http://epidemics.psu.edu/articles/view/10.1016/j.epidem.2019.100370

Past synopses can be found at http://epidemics.psu.edu/

If you would like your research featured on CIDDTV, please send an email to Ellen Brandell, our Research Synopsis Coordinator.

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Combating livestock infections: when to act and how?

A new research synopsis entitled “Combating livestock infections: when to act and how?” has been published on CIDDTV by Alexis Delabouglise.

CIDD researchers Alexis Delabouglise and Maciej Boni computationally modeled livestock disease management and transmission between small-scale poultry farms in low- and middle-income countries.

Link to the synopsis:  http://epidemics.psu.edu/articles/view/10.1016/j.epidem.2019.100370

Past synopses can be found at http://epidemics.psu.edu/

If you would like your research featured on CIDDTV, please send an email to Ellen Brandell, our Research Synopsis Coordinator.

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CIDD Best student paper 2019 awardees announced

Congratulations to Catherine Herzog (Bjornstad lab- 2nd place) and Sreenidhi Srinivasan (Kapur lab- 1st place) for being awarded the Inaugural Peter J. Hudson CIDD best student prizes. Catherine’s paper was on peste des petits ruminants virus in northern Tanzania, and Sree’s paper was on an improved skin test to distinguish between vaccine-related and infected bovine TB. There were plenty of deserving entries, so thanks to everyone that participated.

The award, named after CIDD’s former Director, Dr. Pete Hudson was created to recognize student excellence. The criteria for the award were as follows: The paper must be 1) student led 2) have been announced previously in ‘CIDD Good News’ during the year. 3) address a novel or creative question, report a significant advancement for the field, demonstrate significant translational impact or be an example of highly effective interdisciplinary research. Next year’s applications will be due on Dec 1st, 2020, so stay tuned!



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Risky trade-offs alter ant movement

A new research synopsis entitled “Risky trade-offs alter ant movement” has been published on CIDDTV. The synopsis covers results from a study from CIDD researchers Natalie ImirzianChristoph KurzeRaquel Loreto, and David Hughes with collaborators at the University of Notre Dame.

The researchers investigated forager ant behavior the rainforests of Southeastern Brazil, as these forager ants are exposed to predators and pathogens as they leave the nest. The group used cameras to capture ant behavior on the main foraging trails and developed a deep learning model that tracks ants frame-by-frame in the videos to generate a detailed dataset of ant movement in a natural setting. What they observed is that there is a trade off in the ants’ behaviors for avoiding disease vs. food acquisition.

Link to the synopsis: http://epidemics.psu.edu/articles/view/risky-trade-offs-alter-ant-movement

Past synopses can be found at http://epidemics.psu.edu/

If you would like your research featured on CIDDTV, please send an email to Ellen Brandell, our Research Synopsis Coordinator.

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Graduate Students Share Their Research at CIDD Seminar

At this weeks CIDD Seminar, Penn State graduate students Hannah Greenberg (Machtinger Lab), Justin Munro (Llinás Lab), and Sahar Zarmehri (Hanks Lab) discussed their research progress with the CIDD community.

Hannah presented her work on Ongoing Research into the Effects of Sarcoptic Mange on Health and Movement of Pennsylvania’s Black Bear Population.

Justin presented his work on Using Metabolomics to Understand the Role of Acetyl-CoA during Growth of Asexual Plasmodium falciparum parasites.

And Sahar presented her work on Combining Animal Movement and Seroprevalence Data for Prediction of Wildlife Disease Spread.

We are so proud of our graduate students!

CIDD Seminars are held Thursdays at 11:00 am in W-203 Millennium Science Complex.

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