“How diseases flow through wildlife populations, how they expose themselves to humans, how they infect each other and the dynamical consequences for both.”
How did you get to where you are now?
“I believe very strongly in identifying the killer experiments that reveal what’s going on. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those killer experiments that can reveal the process. But I got to where I am because I am just fascinated by and love all aspects of biology and I cant believe they pay me to do what I love. I just happened to fall into parasites and infectious disease and it’s really intriguing.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“I want to say advisor to Sarah Perkins, but only if she’s going to read this! But really I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad job – I believe the trick is to turn what you are doing into fun and an enjoyable part of life. For example, some people in my university see me as an administrator; I rebrand myself as a science leader and talk with people about their cool science – fun. It’s really important to reinvent yourself – I’ve never had a bad job. Incidently…I didn’t mean it Sarah!”
If you had left academia in a parallel universe, what job would you be doing instead?
“I would be either a wildlife photographer – which is what I spend most of my time actually doing at the moment – or a nature warden, and I was one for a period of time. Or a marathon runner, or the world superbike champion, or working at the interface of science and art, or a professional furniture builder or maybe a bee keeper…”
What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
“The biology of upland animals – I could do that standing on my head, though the people setting the questions might not agree with my answers!”
What’s your favourite parasite?
“It must be a worm – I think schistosomes are way cool!”
If you had to be infected with a parasite what would you pick?
“Well I’ve had TB and I wouldn’t recommend that… I wouldn’t mind sharing my guts with a few geohelminths – but a nice friendly one, and not Ascaris, that would be a bit too much!
What’s your favourite type of cheese?
“It would have to be Camembert. I like the squidgy tasty ones that make you want to drink lots of red wine.”
If your office/lab caught on fire, what would be the thing that you saved?
“A tiger skull I have in my office. I’ll never get another one of those. Don’t ask me where I got it from – I don’t know!”
To read more about Pete’s work at the Centre of Infectious Disease Dynamics, Pennsylvania State University, visit his website here.