Researcher Spotlight : Diana Villa Meza

Published: 14 November 2018

This week Ellen Hughes puts Diana Villa Meza under the Spotlight and talks to her about bats, models and the importance of having passion for your research.

Diana Villa Meza‌‌

Can you tell us about your background?

I did my undergrad and master in Mexico City. My undergrad was in Biology but that major in Mexico is extremely broad, so you have to choose an area, I chose Ecology. There, I did a 2-year project in the effect parasites had on fish. I liked so much to learn pathogens-hosts interactions, that I decided to do a masters in Ecology studying these interactions but with BATS(!), and also rodents and Trypansoma cruzi. Now I’m working with viruses in BATS!

In general, I’m passionate about ecological interactions, especially those that involve pathogens.

Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBACHM/UofG?
I’m going to sound extremely nerdy, but we’re all kind of nerds here, I have always wanted to do a PhD. Since I was in the elementary school as I recall, may be at that time I wasn’t sure in what, but I was sure I was going to do one.  Why IBACHM? Well, different factors influenced my decision. First, when I was doing my masters, the very first 2 papers I read about disease ecology were from researches from the Uni of Glasgow (you could say they inspired me). At the end of my masters I realized I wanted to keep working with bats and pathogens, so I looked for researches that were studying disease ecology in bats and of course Daniel Streicker’s group came up, for my fortune he was working at the University of Glasgow. So if add those variables to the equation, this was the place to be.

What can you tell us about your PhD?
A lot of things! It’s difficult to answer because it is the integration of different knowledges, skills and organization. I’m based in the IBAHCM and in the CVR, that makes my PhD much more versatile and also diverse. I have had the opportunity to meet students and professors from both institutes making it a really interesting experience.

What is the focus of your research?
The effect the temporal dynamic of bats can have on the transmission of viruses (rabies and morbilliviruses). And…since interactions exist at different trophic levels and viruses are not entities on their own (they share an environment, different resources, and sometimes ways of transmission), I would like to evaluate the possible interaction between viruses present in bats. I want to detect some of these interactions through statistical models, I really like the process of designing the models and their interpretation (although I’m just at the beginning of that learning).

What do you find most interesting about your work?
Every topic at a PhD level requires learning tons of new skills, trying to find new ways to approach your research question, challenging those methods…of course, sometimes it is stressful but it’s normal.  Definitely doing research represents a challenge, and I love it!

Are you where you thought you would be a year ago?
I’m where I thought I would be two years ago… haha! I think it was around two years ago when I was at the end of my master’s project and emailing for the first time Daniel (my supervisor) asking for a PhD. And for the project that I’m involved now, we started some discussions one year ago, I was extremely excited. I must say, everything has been as good (or even better) as I expected. I hope it continuous this way.

First published: 14 November 2018