Colorado State University Student’s Study of Fluorescent Viruses within Mosquitoes Garners Fellowship

A Colorado State University junior has made viruses transmitted by mosquitoes fluorescent so that he can study the virus as it moves through the body of the mosquito. The study was recently recognized by the American Society of Microbiology.

The American Society for Microbiology selected Christopher Lehmann, a microbiology major, as a recipient of the ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Lehmann’s research focuses on how mosquito-transmitted viruses invade and emerge from cells within the mosquito’s body, then travel through the mosquito and ultimately flow through saliva into a host through a mosquito bite.

Lehmann is using a gene from the jellyfish which makes a protein that is fluorescent. He has spliced that green fluorescent gene into a mosquito-transmitted virus. Lehmann studies the glowing virus in real time under a microscope with ultraviolet light as it bursts out of mosquito cells and travels through the mosquito’s body.

The fellowship is aimed at highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers in microbiology. The students are Ph.D. or MD candidates. Under the fellowship, Lehmann conducted full-time summer research at CSU and will present his research results at the organization’s general meeting in San Diego, Calif., if the abstract is accepted. He received a $3,000 stipend, a two-year ASM student membership and reimbursement for travel expenses to the meeting.

This year, 69 applications were received and 33 were awarded. Of the 33 awardees, 12 students were from doctoral or research universities—extensive institutions, four students were from doctoral or research universities—intensive institutions, one student was from a specialized institution—schools of engineering and technology, eight student were from a master’s college and university institutions, and eight students were from baccalaureate colleges.

Dr. Brian Foy from Colorado State University is Lehmann’s mentor.

The American Society for Microbiology, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the oldest and largest single biological membership organization, with more than 40,000 members worldwide.