Two newly appointed, world-leading researchers with UBC Science have been named Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC).
Dr. Kayla King has been appointed the CERC in Evolutionary Dynamics of Host-Pathogen Interactions, while Dr. Corey Stephenson, who will join UBC in 2024, will hold the CERC in Innovative Synthetic Methods for Translational Chemistry.
As the CERC in Evolutionary Dynamics of Host-Pathogen Interactions, Dr. King’s research focus is on evolutionary and ecological interactions between animal hosts and microbial pathogens. Microbial pathogens are tiny, often invisible organisms, such as viruses and bacteria, that can cause diseases in humans and animals.
Climate change is causing extreme heating and altering the distribution of microbial pathogens, while associated human activity and biodiversity loss are increasing human-animal contact—factors that might contribute to infectious diseases becoming more prevalent.
Dr. King’s research has implications for predicting virulence, transmission, and the tempo of evolution as microbial pathogens emerge in animals or move to new areas with shifting climates.
“My research aims to better understand the evolution of infection and immunity in a changing world,” says Dr. King. “The program will assess the impacts of climate change on pathogen evolution and host susceptibility, and study pathogen evolution after jumps across animal species. We hope to better predict changes in virulence and transmission, informing wildlife conservation, and helping us get ahead in the race against future pandemics.”
Dr. King, who received her undergraduate degree in Biology from UBC, returned after 10 years of teaching and research in Oxford University’s Department of Biology and Christ Church College. She is a professor in UBC’s departments of zoology, and microbiology and immunology.