Faculty Focus: Rachel Roper
Brody School of Medicine
Rachel Roper is a go-to source for reporters covering the coronavirus pandemic.
In the first half of 2020, the associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU sat for almost 50 national and international interviews explaining COVID-19 in layman’s terms to better inform the public.
Roper — whose expertise extends to the SARS coronavirus in the early 2000s — regularly posts about COVID-19 on her Twitter account, @Roper_Lab.
“Being on Facebook and Twitter helps me see what the public knows or doesn’t know or understand,” she said.
Providing accurate information is part of her obligation as a scientist to help society while fulfilling ECU’s mission to serve, she said.
“I believe scientists have a duty to provide good information to the public and to our government officials who need information to make good policy decisions and laws,” said Roper, adding that sense of obligation comes from the support of citizens and government throughout her publicly funded education — from primary school to the university level — as well as state and federal funding for her research and lab throughout her career.
Roper decided to be a media source — and a role model for girls and women — when she joined ECU in 2004. At the time, she was the only woman in her department.
“I want little girls to see a professional woman talking about science,” said Roper, whose lab also studies the effects of gender bias on women in STEM and other male-dominated disciplines. “I can’t imagine how anything could be more interesting than how virus genes evolve to spread infections and how our immune system works to counter them and then how we can use this information to design better diagnostics, therapeutic interventions and vaccines to protect the population from these pathogens.”
Anne Dickerson, professor of occupational therapy in the College of Allied Health Sciences, won the 2020 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service for her work teaching young people on the autism spectrum disorder how to drive and navigate their communities. She was one of 13 people to receive the highest honor awarded to state government employees during a virtual ceremony Oct. 27.