Nicolas Locker: Reviews Editor for Journal of General Virology

Issue: Life on a Changing Planet

11 May 2021 article


Nicolas Locker is a Professor of Virology at the University of Surrey and Reviews Editor for the Journal of General Virology (JGV). His interests involve understanding how our cells respond, recover and adapt to stress, using several virus models. This adaptation is important to the virus–host interface and central in antiviral responses. His lab wants to uncover novel fundamental cell biology mechanisms and novel leads for antiviral therapies.

When did you first decide you wanted to do science (and why)?

I did not grow up with a passion for science, but really liked to do stuff with my hands and experiment, like cooking! As such I was taken by studying chemistry and biochemistry in my hometown (Orléans, France). That interest morphed into a PhD in structural biology as being able to visualise how complex things looked fascinated me. Understanding how these molecular machines work was the next step, with viral proteins or RNAs proving a vast playing field. These days we focus on how viruses hijack or retune proteins central to the control of gene expression and stress responses.

What is your biggest professional achievement?

The three-and-a-half-year journey with one of my early PhD students that saw the laboratory move into the stress responses field, seeing a new line of research take over our other interests, making new collaborations worldwide and working with a great student now back as a laboratory PI in his home country, Iraq.

What would you be doing in your career if you weren’t a scientist?

I’d probably live on the coast somewhere to combine my passion of water sports with a job in the food industry.

When did you join the Society and why did you join?

I joined the Society a couple of years after establishing my laboratory at Surrey in 2009; the range of Society events, from the smaller Focused Meetings to the Annual Conference grand show, was pretty much the best way of getting to know people in the UK and to create my own professional network. These early connections have led to collaborations still going strong a decade later.

Please describe your role on the Editorial Board.

I am the Reviews Editor. Reviews are an important part of the JGV ecosystem and complement the range of articles published. Good reviews are hard to come by but are so fundamental to what we do; they help us understand novel fields into which we are thinking of going, provide a ‘state of the union’ summary informing what we plan in daily experiments, and they also offer a window into the future: the questions remaining to be asked; hypotheses to be tested; I love reviews! My role is to help identify these topics and those most suited to tackle them, and making sure they get written!

What motivated you to become part of the Board?

I have published in JGV before; I love the ethos of the Editorial Board, creating a closed loop where the journal serves the community and the community feds back into it. It’s at the core of what we do at JGV.

Why are Society journals important?

Would the Society be there without journals? Would all those wonderful events happen? Travel grants or internships? This is why we need Society journals and I think it is our responsibility to publish in Society journals that benefit our community.

What do you think the future holds for microbiology?

If the last 12 months have told us anything it’s that one should answer this carefully! From one pandemic to the next, we have to be better at understanding and predicting how pathogens can jump the species barrier. But one thing that will persist and develop in the future is how much more open and collaborative science has been. The pace at which data are published in the open space, new collaborations set up on a Twitter feed; it’s making us better at doing real collaborative science.

Image: Nicolas Locker.