School of Life Sciences welcomes leading ecologist

Dr Naomi Forrester-Soto has joined Keele University’s School of Life Sciences as Reader in Vector Ecology.

Dr Forrester-Soto, originally from Sheffield, joins Keele’s Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology (CAEP), from the University of Texas, where she was an Associate Professor in the University’s Department of Pathology. In her role she researched stabilizing live-attenuated vaccines using high-fidelity mutations, and the effect of a transmission cycle on viral intrahost variation. She was also Co-Director of the General Virology Course.

‌‌Dr Forrester-Soto studied Biological Sciences at Oxford University and in 2005 was awarded her PhD in Ecology of Infectious Diseases from the University of Liverpool. In 2006 she went on to become a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology based at Oxford, and in 2007 moved to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) to undertake a Post Doctoral Fellowship in vector biology, before being promoted in 2010 to Assistant Professor in UTMB’s Department of Pathology.

During her time at the University of Texas Dr Forrester-Soto worked in high containment laboratories (CL) working with dangerous pathogens. Her main research interests are to understand how viruses exist (persist) in the environment in the absence of disease. Her research focuses on CL3 viruses such as Chikungunya, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and explores how a virus optimises its environment with the aim of learning how to perturb the virus and use that to develop antivirals.

Dr Forrester-Soto, along with Head of CAEP Professor Frederic Tripet, Dr Catherine Merrick, and Dr Helen Price, have recently received a £250,000 Royal Society Wolfson Award towards improvements to the CL3 laboratory facilities in the School of Life Sciences. The £630,000 project, with the additional funding from Keele University, will allow CAEP to work with pathogens including viruses that are of human, veterinary and agricultural importance.

Naomi 200 Dr Forrester-Soto said: “Keele is a great new opportunity for me to stretch out my research and join a different type of institution that is not solely focused on clinical science. I’m looking forward to seeing how my research will fit into a larger global picture of science, that isn’t primarily focused on infectious disease. This is a great chance for me to see where my research will take me. I’m excited to help implement the new CL3 laboratories at Keele, and the potential for collaborations, to find new avenues of research which I’ve not had the opportunity to take up before. I think my research will fit in well with CAEP, which is already well established internationally, and will allow me to collaborate with people around the world.”