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Q&A with Dr Joe Grove on his recent appointment to World Economic Forum Junior Science Panel

26 May 2020

We’re delighted to announce that Dr Joe Grove from the UCL Division of Infection and Immunity has been appointed to the World Economic Forum Junior Science Panel. We caught up with Joe to talk to him further about his work and this new appointment.

Joe Grove UCL

The World Economic Forum Junior Science Panel is a community of young, rising-star researchers is made up of scientists from a range of academic disciplines across the world. They are committed to integrating scientific knowledge into society for the public good. The community helps leaders engage with science and the role it plays in society. We caught up with Joe to talk to him further about his work and this new appointment.

Q. Tell us a bit more about your background and what you have been working on to date.

I am a nuts and bolts virologist. Me, and my team, are investigating the mechanics of virus particles – these are the microscopic things that spread infection between people – we’re interested in how they enter human cells and how they evade the human immune response. We hope that our work will reveal some cool new biology and, potentially, guide future vaccine efforts.

Q. What does being appointed to the World Economic Forum Junior Science Panel mean for you and what will you be doing?

To be selected as a World Economic Forum Young Scientist is an honour and privilege. It will provide an opportunity to engage with other scientists, business leaders and policymakers from across the world. I hope to promote an evidence-based approach to tackling the various challenges we all face; not least the Coronavirus pandemic, but also climate change and sustainability. Science has built the modern world; we will need it to maintain and expand global prosperity.

Q. Can you explain why you have a passion for studying viruses and what sparked this interest?

I read a book whilst on a cross channel ferry when I was 14; it was an account of the discovery of Ebola virus. Whilst the book was not all that scientifically accurate, the sensationalist description of how viruses hijack our bodies really appealed to my teenage mind. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a Virologist. I feel so fortunate to be doing my job; experimental science is incredibly fun (if challenging at times) and I’m extremely grateful to the various people that have supported and nurtured me along the way.

Q. What do you think will be the big breakthroughs that we might see in your area of work in the longer term?

Vaccines are the single most successful public health measure in history; they have saved countless lives and reduced suffering for millions of people, allowing societies to flourish in their good health. However, there remain many significant human viruses for which no vaccine exists (HIV and Hepatitis C to name but two). Viruses, like these, are naturally very resistant to the human immune response and, therefore, are hard to engineer vaccines for. Understanding how this can be achieved would represent a huge breakthrough.

Q. We hear you have been making some lively, entertaining videos for children all about coronavirus…

It started with an assembly at my son’s school; simple messages about what coronavirus is, how it spreads and how we can stop it. The kids enjoyed it and had some great questions. So, once the lockdown happened, I started making YouTube videos for kids, largely based on the questions that are mailed to me. I also couldn’t help draw on my creative side so there’s a few songs thrown in to make the science a little more digestible. I feel a responsibility to do science outreach around the Coronavirus pandemic; virologists can help to demystify and reassure the public. If properly informed, people can act in a considered and responsible way.

You can view one of Joe’s videos for children, ‘Viruses and You’, on the Faculty of Medical Sciences YouTube channel below.

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