An interview with ASV President Professor Andy Pekosz

Posted on July 16, 2019   by Microbiology Society

The Microbiology Society's Journal of General Virology has recently formed an affiliation with the American Society for Virology (ASV). Here, we caught up with Professor Andy Pekosz, President of ASV about why it is important for learned societies to collaborate, and the ASV's upcoming annual meeting in Minnesota.

Please introduce yourself and your research interests

I am Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA. I am primarily interested in the basic replication and assembly viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Much of my research is focused on influenza A virus but we are, or have worked on several others including enterovirus D68, SARS CoV, and new world hantaviruses.

How long have you been a member of the American Society for Virology (ASV)?

I’ve been a member of ASV since I was a PhD student. In fact, I was elected President of the ASV 25 years to the month I gave my first presentation at an ASV annual meeting.

What does the role of ASV President entail? 

ASV has approximately 2,200 members whose primary interests are the study of viruses. The main task of the ASV President is to organize the annual meeting of the society, which takes place every summer. The ASV President is also head of the ASV Council, which consists of a number of scientists from specific sub-specialties of virology who are elected by the membership and help organize events and activities to highlight work in those areas.

Why are Societies like ASV important? 

Bringing scientists working on similar topics together is often a great way to get new information disseminated. The ASV annual meeting is an informal way of bringing virologists together to talk and exchange ideas. The meeting has become much more cross disciplined in the last few years. Rather than have workshops or sessions on virus families (a bunyavirus workshop, a retrovirus workshop, etc.) we have started to take a more systems-oriented approach to bring scientists together based on the specific areas they work on (virus receptors workshop, antibody responses to viruses workshop, virus structure workshop and so on) so that virologists working on different virus families can intermingle and exchange ideas. I really believe that ASV plays an important role in strengthening the field of virology because it brings virologists together in a way that stimulates discussions and scientific interactions.

The ASV host an annual meeting, which will take place from 20–24 July 2019. What have you been doing to prepare for the event and what makes this meeting so special?

The meeting consists of morning plenary sessions, afternoon/evening workshops (short talks from society member), poster sessions and a number of other educational/career development activities. Much of the scientific organization was completed a few months ago. The ASV President organizes the Keynote and the morning plenary session topics/speakers. The ASV Program committee organizes the workshops and poster sessions – this year we nearly have over 900 presentations, primarily from students and postdoctoral associates. The opportunity for early career scientists to present their work on a national stage and partake in a number of career development workshops is one of the really unique and exciting things about the ASV annual meeting.


What is the Microbiology Society doing to support ASV19?

The Microbiology Society has always been a strong supporter of ASV and at this year’s annual meeting, they are sponsoring a lecture from the recipient of the Anne Palmenberg Young Investigator Award. It’s a great award, as it acknowledges great work done by junior faculty members who are ASV members and the Microbiology Society has been helping to support the award for a number of years now.

The Journal of General Virology has an affiliation with ASV, what does this mean for ASV and how can your members benefit from it?

ASV has never run its own society journal.  A few years back, we decided that instead of starting our own journal, we would partner with existing journals that had a focus on virology and work with them to get publication discounts for ASV members. In exchange, we acknowledge these journals as ASV affiliated journals and advertise them to members of our society. It is a win-win situation, as our members get discounts at journals they should be publishing in, and the journals get increased exposure to scientists working on areas that the journals specialize in.

Why does microbiology matter?

In this time of increasing scepticism about science and the scientific method, there is perhaps no better scientific field than microbiology to use as an example of how much science can benefit society. The field of microbiology is full of tremendous successes regarding vaccines, diagnostics, treatment strategies and disease prevention. While there is still a lot of work to be done, it's important to emphasize how far science has taken us with respect to improving the quality of life for humans.