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Whelan named LGBTQ+ scientist of the year

Virologist recognized for work on emerging infectious diseases

February 17, 2020

Sean Whelan, PhD, the Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named the LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals for his work on emerging infectious diseases.

Whelan developed genetic approaches to engineer a harmless virus to carry proteins from lethal viruses – such as the ones that cause Ebola and SARS – so scientists could rapidly and safely learn how such viruses infect cells and replicate. Information gleaned from such studies may help design vaccines or therapies for deadly infectious diseases. The technique he developed may help accelerate research to combat the current coronavirus outbreak, known as COVID-19, that started in China late last year.

An openly gay man, Whelan is a strong advocate for diversity in science. “It is important for LGBTQ students to understand that they may encounter some barriers, but those barriers are not insurmountable, and LGBTQ+ students can progress and succeed,” Whelan said.

The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals is dedicated to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For the organization’s press release, click here.