A nice interview in STAT today with Andrew Haddow – a researcher at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases – has got me thinking. Andrew specialises in viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and has been pottering away with Zika research for years, well before the surge of work we are now seeing in response to the current outbreak.
There’s a family history of Zika research in Andrew’s family – his grandfather was one of the scientists who first identified Zika, back in 1947. Andrew’s father, also an infectious disease researcher, would regale stories of jungle adventures, and have culture plates “sitting next to the toaster”. All this sought to inspire Andrew to follow in the family tradition, and in some way directed him to where he is today.
This got me thinking about how our childhood can shape us, and what we end up doing as a career. I grew up on a plant nursery in the glorious English countryside. Surrounded by arable and pastoral farms on the edge of Exmoor National Park, the nursery was an oasis of greenery and wildlife, including a Christmas tree plantation, a pond (with my very own island!), a soft fruit orchard and nuttery, a menagerie of ducks, geese, chickens and cats to keep the pests at bay, and the odd budgie, just… err… because! Growing up in that environment definitely got me into nature and all things environmental, and helping my mum fill in the daily crosswords no doubt ignited my love for reading and writing – perhaps it was inevitable I would someday end up at Nature Microbiology!
So, I throw my thoughts out to you: Did you follow in your parents’ footsteps, or did you rebel against it all and go in a completely different direction? What inspired you to initially start down the path?