In the Iwasaki lab, I will explore the factors that influence the severity of infection with Chikungunya, a virus spread by mosquitoes. For some who become infected, the associated fever and joint pain disappear within a week; others—including infants and the elderly—can develop more severe clinical manifestations, such as debilitating neurological conditions. To determine what makes certain individuals more susceptible to neurological damage, I will use techniques in molecular genetics and virology to develop a mouse model to study the impact of Chikungunya on the brain. I will then assess the role that different types of brain cells—and different types of immune cells—play in disease progression, and determine whether viruses that successfully target the nervous system share a particular molecular signature. This work could foster the development of vaccines or therapeutics that will prevent infection or reduce disease severity.