Alice Fusaro, PhD

Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Padova, Italy

After graduating with a master’s degree in biotechnology from the University of Padova in 2006, Alice joined the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe) in Padua, Italy, a veterinary public health institute that conducts laboratory controls and research activities in three main areas: animal health and welfare, food safety, and environmental protection. IZSVe is also an OIE/FAO international reference laboratory for Newcastle disease and avian influenza. After joining IZSVe, Alice became involved with the phylogenetic and evolutionary analysis of these two diseases. In 2007, she trained with a group of researchers who focused on genetic sequencing at the J. Craig Venter Institute, and in 2008, she completed coursework on computational biology at the Universities of Cambridge (UK) and Torino (Italy). In September 2008, she attended the MISMS Europe Meeting in Vilamoura, Portugal, where she was invited to spend five weeks analyzing avian influenza data at FIC.

While at FIC, Alice focused her research on the evolution of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) A/H5N1 in Nigeria, a project that included the analysis of spatial migration, genetic diversity, and evolutionary rates. Under the guidance of Martha Nelson, PhD, Eddie Holmes, PhD, and Katharine Sturm‐Ramirez, PhD, she learned to use analytical software like PAUP* and MacClade, enabling her to analyze relevant data. During her time in the US, Alice had the opportunity to collaborate with FIC researchers to analyze epidemiologic data and interpret corresponding results. Collaborations between FIC and IZSVe are ongoing, and Alice hopes to publish her research findings soon.

Some highlights of Alice’s stay in the US include going to the movies with colleagues, spending time with Martha’s family, traveling to New York City for Easter, and attending her first baseball game. Attending the June 2009 IDEA workshop in Washington DC, she found it to be “another great opportunity to expand [her] knowledge on the phylogenetic and evolutionary analysis of influenza viruses.”

Alice has authored or coauthored ten publications thus far, and this September, she taught a one‐week course on genetic sequencing and phylogenetic analysis to trainers from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Alice hopes to continue working closely with FIC on phylogenetic analyses. By continuing to publish, she seeks to help basic science researchers in low‐resource areas improve their knowledge of the sequencing and evolutionary analysis of influenza and other viruses. Her research interests have helped mold her perspective on global health: “[T]he most important public health issue is the understanding, prevention, and control of zoonotic diseases and food safety. Ensuring safe food is paramount for the protection of human health and the enhancement of people’s quality of life.”