Jovana Bozic, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow 
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
University of Florida

Supervisor: Derrick Mathias, Ph.D., MPH
Co-Supervisor: Rhoel Dinglasan, Ph.D., MPH
Program Project 1: Understanding vector ecology, arbovirus infectious rates & insecticide resistance to optimize mosquito control
Expanded: Investigation of naturally occurring Wolbachia infections in Aedes aegypti populations in Florida

Dr. Jovana Bozic is a postdoctoral fellow at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory at University of Florida supervised by Dr. Derrick Mathias. Jovana completed her Bachelors at the University of Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Faculty of Agriculture where she studied pomology, viticulture, and pests and diseases of fruit tree crops and grapes. She moved to Italy to complete her Master’s Degree at the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies, Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM-MAIB). Her Master’s research focused on the integrated pest management of Mediterranean fruit tree species, specifically palm pest, the red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. From this research, she gained an interest in pest management and entomology. 

After her master’s degree, Jovana’s focus in research shifted from integrated pest management and agricultural crops to vector biology and mosquitoes.  Jovana completed her PhD in Environmental Sciences and Public Health (Malaria and Human Development) at the University of Camerino. As a graduate student and European Research Council ERC -Symbiovec fellow in the Parasitology and Medical Entomology lab she was supervised by Dr. Irene Ricci, coordinator of the project and co-supervised by Dr. Guido Favia, head of the lab.

Jovana’s dissertation research looked into the characterization of fungal symbiosis in vector mosquitoes and the evaluation of its potential impact in the control of vector borne diseases. Specifically, she investigated interactions between the mosquito host and malaria parasite (Plasmodium berghei) at the molecular level and the manipulation of fungal symbionts expressing anti-pathogen molecules within the mosquito host.

During her PhD she was a Speaker at SoIPa XXVIII Congresso Nazionale della Parassitologia (National Congress of the Italian Society of Parasitology), Rome, Italy, presenting the use of symbiotic yeasts associated to mosquitoes to prevent plasmodial infection in malaria vectors. To complete her PhD requirements in Italy she completed an internship as a Research Scholar at Yale School of Public Health. Her internship was in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases with Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Serap Aksoy. During the time at Yale, she was involved in research activities aimed at the screening for yeast in the tsetse (Glossina sp.). After her PhD she completed one postdoc position, in the same lab with Dr. Ricci, before joining the Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases (SEVBD). 

Through a connection from her previous research, Jovana was connected with Dr. Dinglasan and SEVBD to begin her postdoc in January 2018 with Dr. Derrick Mathias. Jovana’s SEVBD research focuses on microbial symbiosis in mosquitoes and its influence on mosquito physiology and arbovirus transmission.

Her work has emphasized two groups of microorganisms. The first is Wolbachia pipientis, a bacterium that has formed symbiotic relationships with a wide range of insect species and often influences the reproductive biology of its host. Specifically, she investigated naturally occurring infections of Wolbachia in Aedes aegypti populations from Florida using multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and RNA-seq analysis. This research is currently in preparation to be published so stay tuned for the results. Second, she continues to study the fungal microbiota of mosquitoes with an emphasis on yeasts acquired by adult females in nature. So far she has found nine distinct species of fungi, which are being maintained on agar plates.

Her goal is to test their influence on mosquito fitness and vector competence for arboviruses. Jovana has continued to learn new skills from Dr. Mathias and her labmates, Xiaodi Wang (Ph.D. student) and Tanise Stenn (lab technician). She acquired experience studying interactions between the mosquitoes, their host, and arboviruses using the Ae. aegypti – dengue/Zika virus model systems.

Jovana also collaborates with Dr. Chelsea Smartt at the FMEL. With their combined expertise they are investigating the impact of mosquito microbiota on vector competence for dengue virus. Dr. Smartt’s PhD student Tse-Yu Chen has been working on molecular pathways that might be induced by dengue virus, moreover, triggered through bacterial and fungal microbiota. Together, the results would provide insights into potential factors involved in antiviral responses to develop new strategies for virus transmission blocking.

Next academic year, she will be an invited guest lecturer for The Mosquito Biology courses (ENY 6000 Advanced Mosquito Biology Course / ENY 4000 Mosquito Biology Course) and will speak on mosquito symbiosis.  The courses are provided by faculty and postdocs at FMEL as a formal course under the Entomology and Nematology Department at UF. As a part of outreach activities, Jovana participated at the Indian River Lagoon Science Festival at Fort Pierce (FL) with the idea to raise awareness and educate the local community about mosquitoes and the public health threat they pose to the environment. Moreover, she was a guest lecturer at FMCA (Florida Mosquito Control Association) 2020 DODD Short Courses, introducing mosquito-Wolbachia symbiosis to mosquito control professionals.

Jovana was a speaker at the 16th Arbovirus Surveillance and Mosquito Control Workshop in St. Augustine, FL, organized by Anastasia Mosquito Control District (St. Johns County, FL) and recently presented at the Entomological Society of America 2019 annual meeting in St. Louis, MO, titled, “Does smoke equal fire? Investigating natural Wolbachia infections in an Aedes aegypti population from Florida.”

To continue following Jovana’s research or learn more about her past work see the links below: