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New Mexico State University Regents Professor of biology Kathryn Hanley will speak on a panel at virtual forum on Friday, Oct. 2 titled “The New World of Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities of COVID-19.” (Photo: Darren Phillips / New Mexico State University)

LAS CRUCES – The Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders and Western Academic Leadership Forum has invited a New Mexico State University professor and a leading researcher in emerging infectious diseases to speak at an upcoming virtual forum titled “The New World of Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities of COVID-19.”

Kathryn Hanley, NMSU Regents Professor of biology who was recently tapped to head one of 11 new Centers for Research of Emerging Infectious Diseases funded by the National Institutes of Health, has led NMSU’s efforts regarding campus COVID-19 strategies.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to offer my thoughts on what has worked, and what has not, as we attempt to leverage our skills and knowledge as academics to safeguard our campuses and their surrounding communities from the COVID pandemic,” Hanley said.

The event on Friday, Oct. 2, brings together the provosts, vice presidents and chief academic officers from member universities and community colleges, respectively, to discuss common issues impacting Western institutions of higher education.

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These member organizations are located in the 15 Western states and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming plus the Northern Marianna Islands and Guam).

Hanley graduated magna cum laude with a major in biology from Amherst College and completed her Ph.D. in Biology at the University of California, San Diego. She conducted post-doctoral research at UC Davis, the University of Maryland and the National Institutes of Health, where she participated in the development of the NIH dengue virus vaccine.

Since joining NMSU in 2004, Hanley has investigated the ecology and molecular biology of arboviruses, those transmitted to humans primarily through the bites of infected mosquitoes, ticks, sand flies, or midges, both in the laboratory and in the field. Her field studies have shed light on the risk of emergence of new virus strains across the tropics, and the potential for transmission of mosquito-borne viruses in the U.S. 

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Her laboratory studies have focused on identifying the factors that shape the evolution of viruses such as dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, Zika and more recently SARS-CoV-2 and on developing new drugs to treat these viruses.​

Hanley’s presentation will address the challenges between science and policy during the pandemic as well as strategies for higher education institutions in the COVID-19 era.

“It is now clear that SARS-CoV-2 will be with us for a long time, as it seems to have established itself as an endemic human disease like flu,” said Hanley. “So our challenge now is to deal with immediate crises while at the same time planning for a future in which SARS-CoV-2 remains a persistent, though hopefully less pervasive, threat.”

Minerva Baumann writes for New Mexico State University Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7566 or by email at [email protected]

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