UGA research programs shine at 42nd meeting of the American Society for Virology

By Amy H. Carter

Kathy Spindler, far left, a former UGA faculty member now at the University of Michigan Medical School, receives the Wofgang and Patricia Joklik Distinguished Service Award at the ASV’s annual conference in Athens. Pictured with Spindler from left: Colin Parrish of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ana Fernandez-Sesma of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Mark Tompkins of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

The University of Georgia’s research prowess was on display for the 42nd annual meeting of the American Society for Virology, the first time in the society’s history that it met in Athens and one of a handful of times the gathering has been held in the Southeast.

ASV is a professional organization with more than 2,700 members in 55 countries. Its mission is to support all virologists, to promote research on viruses, and to promote engagement and open communication of discoveries through its annual meeting and other activities.

The annual meeting attracts thousands of virologists and exhibitors from around the world who gather and share the latest research into the biology of viruses. Mark Tompkins, Ph.D., director and principal investigator of the Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the gathering draws internationally recognized scientists and graduate students, post graduate students, undergraduate students, and high school teachers who present their research.

Tompkins led the effort nearly a decade ago to bring the meeting to UGA. When he asked why Athens had never hosted the meeting, the general answer was “it’s too hot there in the summer.”

A t-shirt with text stating "ASV 2023 at the University of Georgia keeps Viruses on my mind"Venues such as Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., typically win the summer booking due to their cooler climates. But the first time the association met at the University of Minnesota the state was experiencing a heat wave so intense it overwhelmed the institution’s air conditioning systems. Fire alarms deployed in classrooms and condensation made it “rain” indoors, Tompkins said.

“Yes it’s hot down here but our air conditioning works,” Tompkins said. More importantly, he saw the annual conference as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on UGA’s biomedical research.

“This was me wanting to show the research community that we have a very strong R1 research institution here and we have a fantastic vet school,” he said. UGA is one of only 146 degree-granting institutions in the U.S. to be designated R1 by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. That puts UGA in league with Princeton, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins University.

The officers and conference planners for ASV agreed with Tompkins that Athens was a good place to visit, in part thanks to input from a former UGA faculty member.

Kathy Spindler Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School, took her first faculty position in UGA’s Department of Genetics in 1985, where she established studies of mouse adenovirus type 1 (MAV-1). She was program chair for the ASV at the time Tompkins submitted the Athens proposal, and thus a part of the team making site visits for future meeting places. She now serves as ASV secretary-treasurer.

Exhibitors such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases made The Classic Center their temporary home during the 42nd annual conference of the American Society of Virology.

“In January 2017 we visited, and we were just blown away by the facilities at The Classic Center,” Spindler said. “And of course, I knew about all of the virology that had come online after I left Athens. There is a very strong virology program now at UGA.”

In a full-circle moment, Spindler was awarded the Wolfgang and Patricia Joklik Distinguished Service Award by the ASV on The Classic Center stage. The award was established in 2021 by Patricia Joklik in memory of her late husband, Wolfgang, who was the founding president of the ASV. Spindler is the third researcher to receive the award in recognition of her service to the field of virology.

We’re UGA Vet Med, and our

passion powers our commitment.