Disease Detectives

Dates: July 10-21, 2017
Cost: $700.00

How and why do people, animals and plants get sick? We will explore how you, germs and your environment interact to spread disease and ways to try and stop them from spreading. You’ll be in the lab, screening and identifying the various organisms that cause disease, and you’ll be outside looking for disease vectors, parasites and fungal infections.  You’ll discover how your immune system protects you, and what happens when it fails.  Finally, you’ll visit a local and/or state agency that’s busy fighting the spread of disease here in Alaska.  This module is ideal for those planning careers in the health sciences or wildlife management.  

Apply hereLink only works during application period, February 1 through April 15

Meet the Instructors

Mel Durrett, PhD,  Assistant Professor of Biology at Rhodes College, in Memphis, Tennessee

I grew up in Mississippi playing with frogs and catching lightening bugs, with about 15 cats and dogs.  Our pets always had fleas and ticks, and I wondered about how those little critters could live on another animal like that.  Fast forward a bit, and I’m now an ecologist and professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee—so I can tell you a lot about how parasites infect an animal and what kinds of environmental conditions help them thrive.  I have studied a lot of different organisms over the years—plants, birds, fish, rodents, insects, even microbes—and they all get diseases of some kind!  Some can even pass them on to people.  As an ecologist, I love learning about how organisms interact with one another and their environment—especially in Alaska.  I lived here for ten years and now I keep coming back every summer!  I’ve taught ASRA twice before (Plant Genetics and Dirt Made My Lunch) and I’m really looking forward to this summer’s adventures in the field and the lab!

Lisa Smith, PhD student, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

It was a childhood case of the chicken pox that first spurred my interest in infectious disease. I watched as more and more of my classmates were suddenly absent due to this illness and was surprised when I woke up one morning with the tell-tale rash indicating that I, too, was sick. Years later, I am still fascinated by infectious diseases and how they infect their human and animal hosts- this includes you and me! I am now a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where I study how HIV infection can lead to neuro-AIDS, the dementia and cognitive impairment seen in some people with AIDS. I am interested in understanding how bacteria and viruses interact with the cells they infect to cause sickness in humans and animals. In addition to laboratory research, I study how scientists can better communicate their work to improve public health and understanding. I love introducing people to the fascinating world of infectious diseases and have spent several years teaching labs at UAF and a year teaching 7th grade science here in Fairbanks. This will be my first summer with ASRA and I am very excited about the fun things we will be getting up to as we act as disease detectives to explore how infectious diseases work!

Back to Top