Joined USJ: 2014
He was always interested in biology, but after performing in high school drama productions, Derek Dube actually considered becoming a theater major in college. In the end, however, biology prevailed and so began the foray into research that set his career in the direction of USJ.
Dube’s initial interest in biology was peaked when, in middle school, he read The Hot Zone, a non-fiction, novel-like story of the first Ebola outbreaks in 1976. He obtained a B.S. in Biology, and earned a Ph.D., which focused on the mechanisms of Ebola virus entry into human cells. His research centered on the first step of how viruses go from being an independent particle to getting into a cell and infecting it. Dube explained, “This is a good place to know what is happening so it can be targeted for drug therapy to prevent infection.” As a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, his research focused on the virological and genetic aspects of human endogenous retroviruses. What he did there and what he plans to continue at USJ, involves the same retroviruses, but in a more genetic and genomic context.
Prior to leaving Michigan, Dube’s research connected him with a company called Oxford Nanopore, which developed the MinION sequencing platform. Dube, who was one of a limited group of experts involved in the beta testing of the MinION, was asked to continue his research in his position at USJ. The new technology offers a different way of determining DNA sequences —the device fits in the palm of your hand and is user friendly. “This is extremely cutting-edge technology that is not available commercially at all. USJ becoming part of this group is fantastic for the community,” said Dube.
Dube is also interested in the connection between human and environmental virology. His research will examine plants, rivers and watershed areas to determine existing viruses. This will help ascertain if and when we need to take precautions in terms of the water we drink or the places we swim. “I want to stay in virology and having undergraduates in the program is great,” he said. “I want to see where the research takes me and be open. Wherever it leads is where I will follow.” Dube jokingly says that with his classes as the audience, teaching may rekindle his interest in the arts and provide the opportunity to utilize some of the theatrical skills he learned in high school!
Ph.D., University of Virginia
B.S., James Madison University