Heather Coatsworth
Post-doctoral Associate
Dinglasan Lab, Emerging Pathogens Institute
Department of Infectious Diseases & Immunology
University of Florida
SECVBD

Heather Coatsworth, PhD, is a postdoctoral associate at SECVBD in the Dinglasan Lab at the Emerging Pathogens Institute and Department of Infectious Diseases & Immunology at the University of Florida advised by SECVBD Director Rhoel Dinglasan. As an undergrad at University of Guelph, Ontario, she became very interested in entomology and worked with Dr. Alex Smith, whose lab studies the molecular ecology of ants. Looking for a way to combine her passion for entomology with her interest in medicine, Heather began to look for medical entomology programs for graduate school, and found her PhD mentor, Dr. Carl Lowenberger at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. She completed her PhD in Biology in 2019 and her dissertation research focused on mosquito vector competence, genetics and bioinformatics.

Members of the Lowenberger lab, 2019 (Left: Iman Baharmand, Centre: Heather, Right: Dr. Mosquito (Carl Lowenberger)

As a SECVBD postdoctoral associate, Heather works with a variety of collaborators for pathogen screening. SECVBD PI Dr. Greg Glass has tick samples from throughout Florida that Heather tests for pathogens to complete geospatial pathogen risk analyses. Heather also is a part of the enhanced surveillance efforts with Miami-Dade Mosquito Control and the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence via testing mosquito samples for dengue and West Nile Virus in South Florida. From this program alone, over ~9,000 mosquitoes have been assayed since August! She will also be a part of the kissing bug project led by PI Dr. Norman Beatty. Heather is also part of our communication team led by SECVBD PI Dr. Sadie Ryan. Heather helps Kaci D. McCoy, Center Program Coordinator and Lexi White, postdoctoral associate prepare materials for our website and social media pages (Twitter and Facebook).

Left: Collecting Aedes aegypti saliva for pathogen testing, Right: Florida tick collecting.

As part of the Dinglasan Lab Heather leads Team Arbovirus (Team Arbo), mentoring three PhD students and an undergraduate in research on arbovirus related projects on ticks and mosquitoes. Heather is interested in characterizing infection dynamic mechanisms of insect specific viruses (ISVs), with the ultimate goal of understanding the evolutionary mechanics of these ISVs, and how they impact dengue infection in mosquitoes.

Left: Collecting mosquito guts for molecular analyses, Right: Team Arbo members (from left to right: Mary Florez, Heather Coatsworth, Jasmine Ayers, Caroline Stephenson, Christy Waits).

Heather presented at the Emerging Pathogen Institute Research Day in February on “Going viral: Does insect-specific virus infection affect human-flavivirus transmission in Aedes aegypti” and attended Vector Week in Colorado hearing vector focused talks across the country and meeting with other CDC Centers of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases. Heather has also guest lectured for Human Parasitology and Graduate seminar series at University of Florida, and has previously taught Parasitology and General Biology courses.

Left: Heather at EPI Research Day, Right: Heather and her teaching assistant, Nicolas Salcedo during a Parasitology Lecture.

Heather is passionate about science communication, and is currently a volunteer with the Florida Scientist Task Force and is an Emerging Pathogens Institute COVID-19 testing team member at the University of Florida. As a member of the PRIDE Committee and Diversity Committee in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida she also strives to be an active ally in the workplace.

Celebrating PRIDE Week at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

In her personal time, Heather enjoys hanging out with her weiner dog, Acorn, visiting pig rescues, hiking, cooking, and drinking craft beer.