March 27, 2020

Coronavirus: crisis or opportunity? A microbiologist and public health expert answers

Disponible en español. Disponibile in italiano. Verfügbar in Deutsch. Available in Spanish, Italian, Arabic and German.  I don’t have to be a microbiologist and public health professional to know that humankind has faced pandemics before. Between 1918-1920, the Spanish flu took approximately 50 million lives in a world population of about 1.8 billion. Since then we have heard of Ebola, Zika virus, SARS, MERS, swine flu and avian flu among others. Except that they seemed so far away, or not as severe. The new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a novel infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020….

March 19, 2020

How to survive Coronavirus self-isolation: An analog astronaut explains

Disponible en español. Disponibile in italiano. Verfügbar in Deutsch. Available in Spanish, German,  Arabic and Italian.  After exiting my sleeping quarters, three steps lead me to the sanitary room which is only a few steps wide itself. I have my privacy there but, as soon as I leave it and join my fellow teammates at the breakfast table, I won’t be alone for hours. In the small, restricted confines of our habitat we eat, sleep, carry out experiments, do our fitness routine and our daily housekeeping chores. After one week in isolation, my mood starts taking a slight downturn. As much as I like my teammates – we were tested extensively and chosen for…

June 28, 2019

Secrets encoded in ancient human genomes

Not long after my return to Amman, I took a faculty position at the Hashemite University. The university was built along a busy highway leading to the Syrian border, about fifty minutes from my family’s home. I used to joke to myself along the way that if I felt like it, I could skip class, drive all the way to Damascus, and make it back for my last lecture of the day. The war changed all of that of course. An hour-long commute could seem like a burden, but I actually enjoyed the drive and treasured my time in the car. I would listen to books and novels on tape…