The following is a guest blog post that I wrote for a friend’s blog (now defunct) in 2009. At the time, I was one year into my PhD and the swine-origin H1N1 influenza virus pandemic was just beginning. I was cleaning through some old files and found it today, and…


Have we reached the point where we can speculate about vaccine timelines?

“When will we have a vaccine?” is a question that I get asked on the regular. I think when the pandemic started, this was anybody’s guess, but with several vaccines entering Phase 3 trials, we are nearing the point where we can begin to speculate about the answer.

The first…


We have been where you are and we know what is coming; we would not wish it on anyone.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

By the time New York began its “PAUSE” order, we now know that COVID-19 had been spreading in the city for at least a month.


The conversation about this disease is being hijacked and politicized to put less emphasis on immediate risk to human life.

COVID-19 is, of course, something everyone is talking about, but I am not sure that we are paying enough attention to the words that are being used to talk about it.

Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

The narrative right now in a lot of countries is being dominated by word choices that serve very specific…


As an emerging disease researcher, I learned that with new viruses you are never working with good information. The thing about emerging diseases is that you’ve never seen them before. You’re going to make mistakes. …


Between modern virology and the history of the Black Plague, I have some thoughts to offer from a life spent preparing for “the big” pandemic.

“Nothing in our lives has prepared us for this moment,” a leader at my job said yesterday on a staff call. For most people, that’s true.

I used to get sick a lot when I was a kid, so I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices. I guess…


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

If you are just joining us here on social media, there is a new virus in town. By “town,” I mean human-inhabited Earth. …


Living in a household with two academics is a strange experience. My wife right now is rounding the bases to complete her doctorate. I've had mine for just a few years now. It shows in how we approach life, and each other.

We’re both trained against saying things that are…


Business doesn’t have time for you to repeat the project until you’re satisfied.

Academia is far from perfect, but it is a place that attracts, and enables, a large number of perfectionists. In the academic world, real deadlines are rare and often come with a long lead time or significant flexibility. …


An experience with Kip Thorne taught me how to communicate tough concepts to different audiences.

“Insights into the caustic structure of a camera’s past light cone when it is near a black hole, and how those caustics affect gravitationally lensed images,” the email said.

If your communications make you sound like a Star Trek character when they don’t have to, you’re going to alienate people.

I was writing a review of the movie Interstellar, and because he was one of my favorite Caltech professors when I…

John Skylar, PhD

Virologist, author, damn fool. Also found at www.johnskylar.com and www.betterworlds.org. Opinions my own, impressions yours.

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