Pandemic whetted Ziemann’s interest in research, viruses

Research Days

Dan Moser, March 28, 2023

Pandemic whetted Ziemann’s interest in research, viruses

Chanasei Ziemann first got interested in research as a middle schooler; then, in high school, viruses piqued her interest thanks to an English paper she wrote. About that time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, further heightening her interest.

Chanasei Ziemann

Now a junior majoring in biological sciences and biochemistry, Ziemann is working in the lab of Luwen Zhang, professor of biological sciences affiliated with the Center for Virology.  Their project, titled “A Metagenomic Approach to Determining the Viromes in Bats,” is the subject of a paper that Ziemann will present during the poster session at this week’s Student Research Days.

“The title is a little bit daunting … but basically we’re trying to get the DNA data of a bunch of bats in the Midwest and see what types of viruses they might be holding,” Ziemann said.

An outside source gathered about 800 bats in the region, and Ziemann and her team swabbed their mouths and anuses; the samples were pooled into subgroups, with another outside lab obtaining genomic information that will lead to further analysis. The lab should be able to determine what viruses are present in the samples.

Ziemann said the researchers suspect reverse zoonosis between humans and bats may have occurred, which can create a persistent cycle of interspecies transmissions and virus evolutions.

“Bats pose as a likely candidate for this continuation, and their diseases should be closely monitored. This can be used as a model for epidemiology research and public health measures,” Ziemann said.

“Due to the recent pandemic, there’s increased urgency for figuring out what might be out there and what could possibly affect humans,” Ziemann said. “We need to have a better understanding of what all bats can harbor so we can use that information to possibly prevent a future outbreak.”

Ziemann plans to go to graduate school after she gets her undergraduate degree. She’s leaning toward a career in academia as she’s discovered, thanks to being a teaching assistant for a couple of classes, that she really enjoys that role.

Student Research Days is hosted by the Office of Research and Economic Development in partnership with the Office of Graduate Studies and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Research Days