With the Researcher Spotlight, the Microbial Systems Initiative aims to introduce you to the breadth and diversity of research interests and potential growth opportunities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. We hope that by highlighting both the researchers and their research, we can help you to learn more about and connect with your colleagues to enhance multidisciplinary research and education in microbial sciences here at Illinois.
Christopher Brooke, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, School of Molecular & Cellular Biology
Christopher Brooke, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of microbiology in the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology. He also has an affiliate appointment with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. Before joining the faculty at Illinois, he completed a doctorate in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina and postdoctoral training in viral immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Research in the Brooke Lab is primarily focused on understanding how heterogeneity and collective interactions within influenza virus populations influence broader patterns of viral evolution and infection outcome. They are also interested in understanding the genetics of influenza virus immune escape and transmission, with the overall goal of improving strategies for universal vaccination.
What is your research in microbial systems about?
We try to understand how influenza viruses replicate, evolve, and cause disease. We are particularly interested in understanding how interactions within and between complex, highly heterogeneous populations of viruses and host cells influence infection outcomes.
How are you conducting your research?
We use a wide variety of techniques including fundamental molecular virology, experimental evolution, next-generation sequencing, multiple single-cell approaches, computational biology, mathematical modeling, and multiple animal models of infection.
How does being a part of the Illinois community support and enhance your research?
The Illinois community is a highly supportive and collaborative environment, which is especially great when you are starting up a new lab. We have also greatly benefited from the world-class technical resources here, especially next-generation and single-cell sequencing by the DNA services lab within the Carver Biotechnology Center, and computational support through collaborations with HPCBio.
What have you done to help the local community during the novel coronavirus pandemic?
Early on, I helped to identify how the university could lend resources, personnel, and expertise to help Carle Foundation Hospital gain the ability to perform molecular testing for SARs-CoV-2 locally, and helped to advance those efforts. I also initiated and have helped oversee the large-scale production of Viral Transport Medium (VTM; a critical component of the COVID-19 testing process) for both local and statewide usage.
What motivated you to get involved in local efforts to address the impact of COVID-19?
I got involved as soon as I heard how little testing we were capable of doing locally. Because my research group studies RNA viruses and commonly performs the specific techniques involved in the molecular test, I knew that we could help in local efforts to expand testing capacity.