DANVILLE, Jul. 27, 2003 - Simon Stevens said he is sketching out “war plans” this summer. As an intern at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, he is helping create a movie that shows how the flu virus hijacks a cell.
“I’m loving it. I haven’t had any prior experience in anything like this in microbiology and virology,” said Stevens, 23, who graduated last month from Danville Community College with an associate’s degree in science.
He began his six-week stint as a data curator by collecting information about type A influenza. This first task was a chore because the disease has been researched extensively and the sheer volume of data online and on Virgina Tech’s library shelves seemed insurmountable, Stevens said.
In a telephone interview last week, he said he is currently drawing out a final schematic with all the steps of a flu virus taking over its host. He is also entering information into a computer program template.
Stevens is excited about seeing the movie that will soon be generated. The finished product will serve as a tool for basic research and could help determine the effectiveness of certain drugs.
Stevens said he hit the books when he started his internship on July 8, because he was only understanding “every fifteenth word” he heard in his lab. But he added the work is inspiring him to consider earning a doctoral degree in virology.
Next month, the Danville native and Halifax County High School alumnus will start working on a bachelor’s degree in biology at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg.
“I’ve always had a certain curiosity about everything,” Stevens said, adding that curiosity was satisfied by DCC science classes taught by professor David Balfour and others. “In taking those classes, I found I was very fond of the processes of organisms. I was fascinated,” he said.
“I guess it’s DCC’s fault,” he joked.
Stevens’ boss at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, biophysics professor Karen Duca, said she hopes for more collaboration between Danville area students or professors and VBI. VBI is a partner of the Danville-based Institute for Advanced Learning & Research.
“Simon is like my test case (and) has worked out great,” Duca said. “I would like to get more like him.”
July 23, 2003