Steph Seifert, PhD
Primary Investigator
Steph completed her doctoral thesis research in the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease Systems laboratory at UPenn. She then completed her postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Virology/Virus Ecology Section where she studied the circulation of filoviruses and henipaviruses in African bats. This work included field sampling in the Republic of Congo and experimental work in the BSL4 at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. Steph has been active in outbreak response including EVD outbreaks in DRC and the COVID-19 pandemic. Steph received the NIH 2020 Merit Award for her participation in the early COVID-19 response including characterizing within-host evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in one of the first persistently infected patients. Steph is passionate about equity and accessibility in the sciences, particularly relating to international research collaborations. Outside the lab, Steph enjoys skiing with her partner, spending time with her three dogs, and riding horses.

American Society for Virology
Society for Modeling & Theory in Population Biology

Graduate Students

Julianna Gilson, MPH
IID Graduate Student, Verena Lighthouse Scholar, WSU ARCS Scholar
Julianna is studying host-virus interactions and co-evolutionary dynamics for her dissertation research in the MEZAP lab. Julianna is studying how -omics data can inform prediction models for the cross-species potential of viruses. Julianna is most recently from New Orleans where she was working with Dr. Hannah Frank at Tulane University sequencing immunoglobulins across multiple bat families, as well as sampling Neotropical bats in Ecuador to study the effects of land-use type on viral prevalence and biodiversity.

Irene Karegi, MSc
IID Graduate Student
Irene completed her MSc in BioChemistry at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science where she studied antimicrobial resistance in camels at the human-animal interface in Kenya. In the MEZAP lab, Irene is researching how adaptation to synanthropic living in wildlife influences zoonotic risk at the interface between humans-livestock-wildlife. Her research project will involve field collections with collaborators at the Institute of Primate Research and with the WSU Global Health – Kenya Program, molecular work with Dr. Michael Letko (WSU) of the Laboratory of Functional Viromics, and statistical modeling in collaboration with Dr. Pilar Fernandez (WSU) of the Eco-Epidemiology of Zoonotic Diseases Lab.

Ricardo Rivero, MSc
IID Graduate Student, Verena Lighthouse Scholar
Ricardo earned his BSc in Biotechnology from Institución Universitaria Colegio Mayor de Antioquia (Medellín, Colombia) and MSc in Tropical Microbiology from the Universidad de Córdoba (Montería, Colombia). Ricardo is interested in development of molecular, serological, and computational approaches for the study of zoonotic viruses, particularly those that are maintained in bats, mosquitoes, and rodents. His Ph.D. research in the MEZAP lab is focused on predicting the cross-species potential of known and novel viruses from bats and mosquitoes from -omics data. Ricardo has contributed to 18 peer-reviewed publications which can be found here:

Photo of undergraduate researcher, Kyra Dimitrov, with a chestnut horse and a black-bay horse

Kyra Dimitrov
Undergraduate Researcher
Kyra is an undergraduate researcher at WSU with an interest in equine sciences who joined the lab in Fall of 2022. She is currently learning the R programming language to study features that contribute to cross-species jumps, viral pathogenesis, and onward transmission of equine-associated viruses.

Affiliated Researchers

David Simons
Verena Fellow in Residence
David Simons is a clinician and PhD student at the Centre for Emerging, Endemic and Exotic diseases, Royal Veterinary College, London. David received a Fellows in Residence award to work with Steph and the Verena Institute on developing a database of host-virus associations and other data relating to Arenaviruses and Hantaviruses. David will be leveraging this database to test ecological and evolutionary hypotheses with these host-virus systems. David will be submitting his doctoral thesis in summer 2023 and is actively seeking postdoctoral opportunities. David has an excellent track record studying high consequence pathogens including Ebola virus and Lassa virus. Find out more about David and his work here:

Former MEZAP Lab Members

Mahsan Karimi, PhD
Scientific Assistant, Oct 2022 – Aug 2023
Mahsan assisted in the development of assays to study host-virus interactions in the MEZAP laboratory as part of the NSF BII Viral Emergence Research Institute including in vitro modeling of host-virus interactions at BSL3 and preparing samples for NGS and proteomics analyses.

Katherine McFerrin
Summer 2021
Undergraduate Researcher

Katherine was awarded the Kolenkow-Reitz Research Fellowship at Carleton College to do a summer research project in the MEZAP Lab. Over the summer, Katherine collected samples from rodents in the Palouse to test for hantaviruses, designed a primer set to broadly detect hantaviruses in field collected samples, and studied the coevolution of hantaviruses and their rodent hosts. Katherine is now a lab manager with Dr. Cara Brook at the University of Chicago.

Amy Hudgins
Summer 2022
DVM Student at WSU

Amy received the Veterinary Student Summer Research Fellowship from the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine to study leptospires in wild rodents and veterinary clinical samples from WA state. Amy assisted with field sampling of rodents in the Palouse and sequenced genomic amplicons from several bacterial species found in wild rodents. Amy received second place in the CVM Research Symposium poster competition for the veterinary student/house officer category. Amy is currently enrolled in the DVM program at WSU.