Ask the Experts: Virology, Vaccines, and COVID-19

Date & Time:
Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Join us for our second panel discussion in our new series, Ask the Experts, featuring leaders from each of the College's Schools.  Our second discussion of the series will be moderated by Dean of the School of Science, Roy Wensley, for a candid conversation around the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our three School of Science panelists will share their work related to virology and public health - and explore the impact of COVID-19 in our daily lives, and the scientific community response. 

YouTube link provided upon RSVP


More About Our Experts

Vidya Chandrasekaran, PhD

Dr. Vidya Chandrasekaran is a Professor in the Biology Department at Saint Mary's College. She has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology with postdoctoral training in genetics and developmental biology. 

Keith Garrison, PhD

Professor Garrison received his Ph.D. in genetics from UC Davis in 2004. The work for his Ph.D. involved identifying markers of genetic diversification within clonal lineages of wine grapes. After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Garrison began a post-doctoral position at the Gladstone Institutes and later at the Division of Experimental Medicine at UCSF studying HIV immunology. The lab team was working to identify novel targets for an HIV vaccine that could help overcome the challenge of rapid HIV mutation, which helps the virus evade many vaccine-driven immune responses. Much of his research work at SMC relates to human endogenous retroviruses, which are the past remnants of retroviral infections that are retained like fossils in our genomes. He has also been using coral as a model system to study the evolution of the immune system in animals, especially the earliest events in the immune response that help warn the host of an impending viral infection. Because many of the determining factors of severe COVID-19 illness may relate to faulty timing of these early events, Prof. Garrison is interested in studying the immune response to SARS CoV-2 infection as a part of his research in the future.

Stephen Perez '03, RN, PhD

Stephen is Lieutenant in the U.S Public Health Service and a nurse epidemiologist with the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Transmission, and Molecular Epidemiology team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He recently served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the New Jersey Department of Health, Communicable Disease Service. He served as a lead epidemiologist for the state’s coordinated response to the E-cigarette/Vaping Related Lung Injury (EVALI) outbreak as well as an investigation of a large community cluster of Legionnaires’ disease in northern New Jersey.  As part of the COVID-19 response, he was responsible for providing clinical and infection prevention consultations to a variety of programs and response efforts across the state. Prior to his current position, he was a data analyst and infection preventionist in the Department of Infection Prevention and Control at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Stephen is a registered nurse and nurse practitioner with a clinical nursing background in HIV/AIDS care.  His work in HIV/AIDS spans 10 years and includes direct patient care, case management, public policy work, quality improvement, and capacity building. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Science from St. Mary’s College of California and a graduate of the Master of Science, Adult Nurse Practitioner Program at the University of California San Francisco, specializing in adult primary care and HIV/AIDS specialty care.  He earned his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing where he was named a Robert Wood Johnson Future of Nursing Scholar and was funded by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation.  His research focused on the effects of publicly reporting healthcare-associated infection data and how these policies affected hospital practices and patient outcomes.

Roy Wensley, PhD

Roy Wensley earned his bachelor degree in Physics at Purdue University and graduate degrees, an MS and PhD in Physics at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He has been at Saint Mary's since 1989, and served as Dean of Science since 2010. As a faculty member, he has served on the Rank and Tenure Committee, as Chair of the Academic Senate, and was the first chair (co-chair) of the Core Curriculum Task Force. He was Department Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 1999-2003. Roy has 30 years of teaching experience, teaching all levels of physics courses, teaching in the January Term and teaching Collegiate Seminar. His scholarship has been supported by three National Science Foundation grants. He is currently the principal investigator on a US Education Department grant funded through the Hispanic Serving Institutions Federal Title III Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and Articulation Program.