In the fall of 2019, newly hired USC Upstate chemistry professor Anita Nag was looking at the virus responsible for a 2002 SARS outbreak in China. Her hope? To understand how virus proteins suppress certain functions in their hosts to make it easier for the virus to reproduce. Within a few short months, her work took on great import as the world battled a slightly different version of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Key discovery. Nag’s research shows that unlike COVID’s spiked proteins that mutate, the function of the virus’s nonstructural protein 1 stays fairly constant over time — making that element a better target for developing treatments.
Teaching and team-building. As a faculty member at a primarily undergraduate institute, Nag has maintained a rigorous teaching schedule, which earned her an Excellence in Teaching and Advising Award from the USC Upstate College of Science and Technology. Additionally, she has built a team of undergraduate researchers and established collaborations with faculty members at other institutions, including USC’s Columbia campus and School of Medicine Greenville.
Sharing her expertise. Nag also conducts workshops and activities in local elementary and middle schools, judges graduate and undergraduate research presentations, trains high school students and delivers community engagement talks to promote science among the general population.
Bottom line. Nag’s research has garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in both internal and external funding. She is currently working on building a strong biomedical research program at USC Upstate so that undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds can get mentored and trained before venturing into their careers.
“The overarching goal of my research project is to understand how viruses hijack host cellular machinery for their own propagation. Our ability to prevent the spread of the next outbreak depends on our understanding of the mechanism of viral propagation and its similarities and differences with other viruses.”