Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at ASV
The American Society for Virology (ASV) is devoted to promoting an inclusive and diverse group of virologists. We strive to create a discrimination-free environment where anyone who wishes to study viruses can do so, regardless of their age, race, gender identity, religion, disability, sexuality, or socio-economic status. As a global community, we are dedicated to training all scientists to value and support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Our goal is to advance scientific discoveries and educate communities worldwide about the significance of virus research and understanding of viral diseases.
The ASV DEI committee has a three-fold mission. First, promote and facilitate a culture of inclusion, and create a diverse and inclusive environment within ASV. Second, provide leadership, resources, and programming to all members, ensuring the historically marginalized individuals feel welcomed in ASV. Third, establish and continually assess tools and practices that encourage and maintain awareness of the need for inclusion of all scientists in the ASV community, thus building a sustainable culture.
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee
Rushika Perera, Chair (2025)
Cara Pager, Vice Chair (2025)
Patricia Aguilar (2023)
Pheonah Badu (2025)
Kaleigh Connors (2024)
Patrick Dolan (2026)
Hinh Ly (2025)
Chioma M Okeoma (2024)
Akira Ono (2024)
Theadore Pierson (2025)
John Purdy (2023)
Laura St Clair (2025)
Jillian Carmichael, Ex Officio (2024)
Chelsey Spriggs, Ex Officio (2023)
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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee Strategic Plan
Read the full strategic plan here.
1. RAISE AWARENESS
Action: Raising Awareness at the Annual ASV Conference
Objective: Promote diversity and increase equity and inclusion at the annual society meeting, and other events and activities
Action: Raising Awareness in the Virology Community
Objective: Increase diversity and create and support a culture of equity and inclusion in the ASV community year-round
2. APPOINTMENTS AND NOMINATIONS
Action: Diversify Leadership and Participation in the Virology Community
Objective: Promote diversity and advance equity and inclusion of leadership and participation in the virology community
3. ENHANCE ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSION
Action: Improve Accessibility at the Annual ASV Annual Meeting
Objective: To enhance the participation at the ASV annual meeting by removing/reducing physical and financial accessibility barriers.
4. ENHANCE DEI COMMUNICATION PLATFORMS, CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATIONS & FEEDBACK
Action: Synergize and Amplify DEI Efforts Within ASV
Objective: Synchronize DEI efforts within ASV and sister organizations.
5. DIVERSIFY THE VIROLOGY WORKFORCE
Action: Enhance the Diversity of Virologists in the Workforce
Objective: Grow a well-trained and diverse virology workforce.
6. MENTORING AND TRAINING
Action: Establish a Mentoring Program for ASV Members
Objective: Create a program for mentoring and the development of professional skills.
Action: Continually Assess the DEI Climate and Landscape
Objective: Develop the methods and infrastructure to accomplish the goals and activities of the ASV DEI Committee.
Faces of Virology
Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreno
Growing up in Nayarit state in Mexico, Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreno was fascinated by the vegetation growing in his family’s backyard. He spent a lot of his childhood outside measuring the native plants. “Do you know Chayote squash? It looks almost like a prickly pear, but big, it’s a climbing plant, and has these tendrils that go around twigs with this heavy fruit. They can climb anything: trees, houses, anything. I would go measure how long it took for a tendril to go around a branch. To me it was incredible to think about what was happening inside that tendril to tell it to go around the branch – it must be a sensor, a touch sensor – it was super interesting. Made me think about the chemistry that must be happening.”
Even at a young age, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno, now a Professor of Virology at Cornell, knew he wanted to be a scientist. “I had an uncle who was an MD. He was the very first person, in all generations in my family, to get a college degree. In a sense, he opened the door for me to say ‘Hey, this is possible.’” Dr. Aguilar-Carreno was also interested in the arts, including drawing and music, and so during high school opted for a mathematics and physics vocational program, as it included technical drawing. “I discovered it was extremely boring and I was not allowed to switch my program. I would visit my friends who were in chemistry and biology, and they were analyzing bloods and urine samples, and I was very jealous of them.”
His love of school and continued curiosity brought him to college at the Institito Tecnologico de Tepic, where he majored in Biomedical Engineering with a specialty in Food Science. This degree program allowed him to pursue all the scientific disciplines he was interested in at once: Chemistry, Biology, Math, and Physics. As a student researcher he gained experience in a lab studying mango breathing. It was during this time in Tepic that a Professor noted his scientific mind, and suggested he pursue a Master’s or PhD. “Well, how could I do that? Tepic didn’t have that option, nowhere in the state had a graduate program. But I had relatives in the US, and as a graduation present, I convinced my parents to go with me to the US to talk to my relatives. I wanted to go to the US to learn English and pursue a Master’s degree.” His parents accompanied him to the US and helped convince one of his aunts to let him live with her. A few months later, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno moved in with his aunt in LA. He shared a room with his two cousins, learned English, and enrolled in a MS graduate program. “It was financially and socially tough, but I was able to survive. Once I learned English and got into a MS program at Cal State LA, I studied muscle cell development.”
It wasn’t until he started his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Southern California that he became interested in Virology. “I did my PhD at USC, in a lab that was studying how to use viruses for Gene Therapy. It was a big lab, with lots of work, and I fell in love with viruses.” Following his PhD, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno pursued a post-doctoral position in the lab of Dr. Benhur Lee, who at the time was at UC Los Angeles (UCLA). Viral entry and viral glycoproteins have been at the core of Dr. Aguilar-Carreno’s work since graduate school, and it was this interest that led him to Dr. Lee’s lab. “I knew I wanted to continue studying viral glycoproteins. I was looking into staying in LA because I was scared to go elsewhere, but also by then my immediate family was there and they needed me there, that is the truth.” His family had immigrated to the US, and through his graduate and post-doctoral studies, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno supported his parents and siblings on his graduate student and post-doc stipends. He felt a lot of pressure to succeed as a scientist and to support his family. “Grad school was a hard time financially, scientifically, and socially, because then at the end of my graduate program I came out of the closet.”
As a post-doc in the Lee lab, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno observed other LGBTQ+ scientists, and felt comfortable coming out to a few members in the lab, and to a few of his friends. “I could actually be myself, and that opened a lot of freedom for me.” During our discussion, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno championed the creativity of virology and science, continuing “being out allowed me to be much more creative and productive. All the energy I was spending keeping myself in the closet could be used on other things, like science.” He spent 8 years in the Lee lab, first as a post-doc then as a research associate, where he contributed to pioneering work on identifying the host receptors for Nipah and Hendra viruses. It was there he started to establish tools to study viral glycoproteins, and learned how much he enjoyed mentoring students and working in academia. “I had many undergraduate students as a post-doc in Benhur’s lab. It was a lot of fun.”
Despite his successes, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno also noted how his status as an underrepresented minority has impacted him as a scientist. “As a college student I had teachers tell me: You’re smart here [in Tepic], but you are going to the US? In the US you are going to be in the bottom.” Throughout his career, he said the doubt from colleagues and peers has been hurtful. “It doesn’t matter at what point in my career, or who it is, having people doubt you more than they would your peers is something you have to get used to as an underrepresented minority.” He continued: “My attitude with that challenge [doubt] is that I am going to prove them wrong. They’re not right: I am capable. For every person that has doubted me, there is another that has believed in me.” As a Professor, PI, and mentor, Dr. Aguilar-Carreno aims to support students, trainees, and junior faculty, no matter who they are or their background. He cites his support network as critical to his own perseverance in his career. He encourages underrepresented minority scientists to form a support network, whether made of friends, colleagues, or family. “I have an incredible husband who helps take care of the kids in the morning so I can get things done. We have two adopted sons, and that [childcare] takes a lot of time, but is amazingly rewarding. My calendar is my life.”
Mentorship is a main pillar for Dr. Aguilar-Carreno in his own lab. Currently, it includes five PhD students, three post-doctoral associates, seven undergraduate students, and a lab manager at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. “As a mentor I have learned that if you’re always telling people what to do, you’re not doing it right. Benhur told me one day: ‘I see you explaining things to your undergrads, and I think you’re explaining too much. I think you’re spoon feeding them. Let them learn, give them questions, and let them go find the answers.” Dr. Aguilar-Carreno notes that as he has progressed in his career, he has relied more on other people’s creativity, and giving them more freedom to explore. He encourages his trainees to perform literature searches and develop their own ideas for projects, he doesn’t draft their manuscripts. “They [trainees] write the first drafts of all papers.” And he expects graduate students and post docs to mentor undergraduates as well. “I am not the only thinker; we have many brains in the lab. I think it’s important for them to do all the aspects of research, including mentoring.”
The major theme of the Aguilar-Carreno lab is viral glycoproteins, with a focus on the emerging paramyxoviruses Nipah and Hendra viruses. Paramyxoviridae is a family of negative-strand RNA viruses, which includes several viruses of public health importance: measles, mumps, and the human parainfluenza viruses (HPIV). As far as we know, the Henipavirus genus, which includes Hendra and Nipah viruses, emerged in humans and livestock in Southeast Asia and Australia through zoonotic spread. Due to their high mortality in humans and the lack of licensed vaccines or effective therapeutics, Hendra and Nipah viruses are BSL-4 agents and category C (USDA-HHS) select agents. This means that research into these viruses undergo stricter rules, regulations, and oversight.