Ever since she was a girl, collecting lizards and toads as she roamed barefoot around her neighborhood southeast of Houston, Courtney Woolsey has had a deep and abiding love of science. She quotes physicist Richard Feynman’s defense of science over art in appreciating the beauty of a flower — as he said, “science adds to its mystery and charm.” Outside the lab, she loves rock climbing — especially bouldering — and she’s passionate about birdwatching. And her choice of career in viral immunology reflects the thrill of discovery.
“I really love the complexity that immunology offers,” she said. “I like not really understanding, you know, everything that’s going on.”
As a research scientist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Woolsey focuses on two hemorrhagic fever viruses: Ebola and its distant cousin, the Marburg virus, both of which must be studied in labs with the highest level of biocontainment. She explores host factors that contribute to survival or lethality in hopes of harnessing that information to improve vaccine and therapeutic design, coming up with new targets to get around the tricks viruses use.
“I’ve done all different types of science, and I think I would be perfectly happy doing any kind of science,” she said. “But I love virology.”
— Elizabeth Cooney