Alumna receives Presidential Early Career Award

By Maria M. Lameiras | Emory Magazine | July 17, 2014

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Jessica Belser began her work in influenza at Emory’s Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Emory Photo/Video.

If Wile E. Coyote were a microbiologist, then his Road Runner would be the flu virus—a bug that just keeps bouncing back.

Jessica Belser 08PhD, who works in the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies types of influenza viruses, their potential capacity to cause disease, and how these viruses pass from person to person.

"I've always been interested in viruses that could kill you, and influenza is right up there," says Belser. Her interest in the study of deadly diseases came after reading The Hot Zone, a nonfiction account of lethal viruses and their spread. "I thought it was the most interesting work you could do."

Belser recently received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. She is one of 102 researchers honored for pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and commitment to community service.

After graduating from Rutgers University in her native New Jersey, Belser applied to Emory's Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis program primarily for the opportunity to do her dissertation research at the CDC—an examination of the pathogenicity and transmissibility of H7 influenza viruses. She has continued that work at the CDC, studying H7 viruses from all over the world, including the Netherlands, China, Canada, Mexico, and Chile.

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