Penn School of Veterinary Medicine names inaugural zoonotic and infectious disease fellows

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Khabadire Tlotleng (left) and Matthew Martinez (right) were awarded the fellowship for their leadership in researching zoonotic infectious diseases of wildlife and humans.

Penn School of Veterinary Medicine’s Institute for Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases has named two biomedical scientists as the inaugural Martin and Pamela Winter Infectious Disease Fellows.

Matthew Martinez, a doctoral candidate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Penn, and Khabadire Tlotleng, a student at Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, were each awarded the $35,000 fellowship on Feb. 23 for their leadership in researching zoonotic and infectious diseases of wildlife humans.

The two fellows will be given access to laboratories focused on a variety of infectious disease-related research topics, including vaccine development, tropical medicine, public health, and ecology, according to Penn Vet.

The fellowship will also involve coursework and programming designed to accelerate Martinez and Tlotleng’s career development. Martinez’s upcoming research will explore invasion strategies of malaria parasites, and Tlotleng’s will focus on identifying canine parvovirus variants.

De’Broski Herbert, associate director of global affairs and education at Penn Vet’s Institute for Infectious and Zoonotic diseases — said that both fellowship recipients bring skills that are critical to Penn Vet’s mission.

“The unique perspectives and abilities of these trainees will be highly valuable in Penn Vet’s mission to confront emerging and re-emerging zoonotic and vector-borne diseases,” Herbert said in a Penn Vet press release.

Christopher Hunter, the institute’s director and distinguished professor of pathobiology, said that the fellows’ work has increased importance in today’s environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The public’s awareness of infectious diseases has never been higher; the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that there is an imperative to expand our focus and approach to infectious diseases,” Hunter said. “These fellowships represent our longer-term commitment to prepare scientists not only for their future careers, but to support vital public health initiatives related to infectious diseases.”