Office Space: Meda Higa, Associate Professor of Biology
The way a person decorates can say a lot about them. In the Office Space series, we go beyond the résumé and get to know York College faculty and staff members through the objects they like to keep close.
Dr. Meda Higa is an Associate Professor of Biology and the chair of the Pre-health Advising Committee at York College. She teaches courses in molecular biology and virology, and regularly does research with undergraduates. Her research interests include studying all things micro: she is interested in understanding the interplay between viruses and host cells and is part of a team of faculty helping students isolate antibiotics from soil bacteria. When not in the classroom or lab, she can be found hiking, camping, and traveling with her husband and two sons.
1. Collection of GIANT microbes
Dr. Higa received her first microbe, Epstein-Barr Virus, over 20 years ago as a gift from a friend “who proclaimed that they had given me ‘Mono’ (the Kissing Disease)!” Since then, the collection has grown to include mostly viruses (T4 bacteriophage is a favorite), several bacteria, and the random cell or parasite thrown in.
2. Hantavirus "art"
During her postdoctoral work, Dr. Higa focused on understanding how hantavirus surface proteins attached to and interacted with host cells. The transmission electron microscope picture is not her own, but she says, “it’s a pretty cool depiction of that virus at various stages of infection.” [Hantavirus is found in the urine, saliva, or droppings of infected deer mice and some other wild rodents and causes a rare but serious lung disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).]
3. Pictures of Dr. Higa's first poster presentation
As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, Dr. Higa had wonderful mentors who encouraged her to apply for summer research internships. The one she was accepted to and participated in was The Leadership Alliance Summer Research Opportunities Program at Brown University. This experience catapulted her “in the direction of molecular biology research and made me realize that science could be a collaborative and fun adventure.” She has pictures from the first poster she presented and of two other women from that summer research cohort. “I keep the pictures here as a reminder of where I started, and hopefully, as an inspiration for students that may never have imagined a life in research!”
4. A "vintage" microscope
Dr. Higa says, “My mom was a middle school science teacher for as long as I can remember. She valued lab experiences for her students that were often in underfunded schools. She passed this microscope on to me several years before she passed. It’s a kind of cool ‘relic,’ but more importantly it reminds me of her. I try to stay dedicated to my students the same way she was to hers.”
5. Pictures of family
Dr. Higa says, “What office is complete without something to remind you of who you really care about? My family is the reason I work so hard, and yet a reminder of why I need to go home at the end of the day to spend time with them! There’s not much more to say than that!”