Second Annual Julius Youngner Lecture

Poliovirus, the importance of selecting (and listening to) good mentors, and regulation of scientific research were recurring themes in the 2nd annual Julius Youngner Lecture presented on January 22, 2016. The lecture series began in 2015 in honor of Distinguished Service Emeritus Professor Dr. Julius Youngner, a member of the University of Pittsburgh research team that developed the first vaccine for poliomyelitis. Dr. Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University was invited to give this year’s lecture on “An Inordinate Fondness for Viruses.” Dr. Racaniello, who holds the Higgins Microbiology Professorship at Columbia, is a prominent virologist who made seminal contributions to the field of poliovirus research.


In his lecture, Dr. Racaniello reviewed some of his important discoveries, including determining the complete sequence of poliovirus, producing the first infectious clone of a human virus, and identifying the poliovirus receptor. Dr. Racaniello also shared his views on the need to allow research to proceed without unnecessary regulations that could slow scientific discovery, and he urged the audience to advocate for science and educate the general public on issues like the importance of vaccination.


Along with his research accomplishments, Dr. Racaniello is well known for his popular virology blog and as host of the podcast “This Week in Virology.”  During his visit to Pittsburgh, Dr. Racaniello sat down to interview Dr. Youngner about his distinguished career in virology for TWiV. The recording was taped in front of a live audience in the Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.  Dr. Youngner talked about how he got started in science and the unorthodox path his career has taken, having begun as an English major who later pursued a graduate degree in bacteriology, became unknowingly involved in research for the Manhattan project during World War II, and eventually found his niche studying virology and developing techniques for cell culture. Click here for the full TWiV Episode 373 with Dr. Youngner.











2016 Julius Youngner Lecture organizing committee: Dr. Youngner, Dr. Racaniello, Mondraya Howard, Dr. Nick Lennemann, Dr. Megan Kiedrowski, Dr. Jen Bomberger (not pictured: Anthony Cadena)