Professor Jon Runstadler joined the Department of Biological Engineering in 2011. Runstadler received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University, a DVM from the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in genetics also from UC-Davis. Runstadler came to MIT from a tenured associate professor position in the Department of Biology & Wildlife at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and, prior to that, was the Director of the Alaska Zoonotic Disease Center.
The Runstadler group seeks to understand genetic factors that impact susceptibility to infectious disease and the repercussions for potential epidemics, persistence, and evolution of those infectious agents. Research is conducted within the context of the interactions that define the ecology between an infectious agent, the environment and the host. The lab’s focus is on the host/agent interaction; it is exploring a variety of approaches that may shed light on these interactions.
The group’s new research initiatives seek to break down traditional academic boundaries and bring together collaborative teams to address issues including the identification of disease vectors, the role of environmental change and pathogen persistence, population genetics and evolutionary biology, and the ecology of infectious agents.
Ecology of influenza is a complex multifaceted problem that we approach through multiple complimentary lenses bridging population, host and molecular levels. To that end, the lab tracks the global spread of influenza using phylogenetic tools and monitor influenza in the environment by detecting virus from water and soil. In addition, the group analyzes the potential range of hosts a virus can infect through studies of particularly promiscuous viruses, such as H3N8. Finally, the lab explores the fitness in viral diversity through the use of reverse genetic approaches.