Dr Jemma Geoghegan

Virus evolution and emergence
Macquarie University

Most infectious diseases arise in humans because a virus has jumped from an animal host into the human population. These include the devastating West African Ebola virus outbreak. With increased urbanisation and climate change, we can expect this to happen more frequently, but to trigger an epidemic, the disease must first evolve to be able to spread from human to human, many of these host-jumping viruses can’t do this. Dr Geoghegan’s research uses statistical and evolutionary models to discover how certain biological features of viruses can be used to accurately predict the risk of epidemics from new and emerging diseases. Her work has identified which types of viruses are likely to spread between humans and cause epidemics, and under what conditions.

Jemma has been an invited author for the science magazine ‘Australasian Science’, and she was the lead organiser of the Sydney Science Festival event at Macquarie University, entitled “The Great Evolutionary Arms Race: Emerging Pathogens and the Rise of the Superbugs”. She is also proud of her work with the HIV educational programme, Deep Griha, in India, enabling the community to be better equipped with knowledge about HIV prevention.