Driving big ideas home in Mini Cooper
UF researcher’s proposal lands new car and MiniSeq DNA sequencing system
UF colleague sent Mattia Prosperi, PhD, MEng, the unusual request for proposals, due in just a few days, and encouraged him to apply. Illumina’s Go Mini Scientific Challenge asked applicants to describe in no more than 500 words how they would use the company’s new compact DNA sequencer to advance their research.
First prize: a MiniSeq DNA sequencing machine, materials for three data runs and a new Mini Cooper car, together valued at over $100,000.
Prosperi’s creative proposal impressed the judges, and the Mini Cooper is now traveling the state as part of the UF HealthStreet program, as well as collecting bugs and bug “splats” on the bumper for Prosperi’s study of mosquito-borne viruses.
Prosperi, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine who was hired under UF’s preeminence initiative, said the challenge in developing his proposal was coming up with an idea that would make the best use of both the MiniSeq and the car in a project that was scientifically sound, unique and focused on social justice. From the outset he knew he wanted to incorporate the car into UF HealthStreet’s efforts. HealthStreet is a community engagement program that aims to improve health of the community by bridging gaps in health care and health research.
Prosperi knew he’d found yet another role for the Mini Cooper when he learned that Mark Hostetler, PhD, a professor in the department of wildlife ecology and conservation at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, had successfully collected insect samples for analysis from vehicle windshields and bumpers, a study method Hostetler calls “splatology.”
Insect samples will be taken to the lab of Volker Mai, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of epidemiology, where the MiniSeq will be housed. Each MiniSeq run produces 20 gigabytes of data, which Prosperi and his team, including epidemiology doctoral student Jae Min, will analyze to identify pathogens carried by the insects.
“It is vital for us to increase our understanding of viruses like chikungunya, dengue and Zika,” said Prosperi, a member of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute and the Genetics Institute. “Our study aims to understand the diversity of pathogens in Florida at the genetic and vector level, which can be used to implement infection control at a public health level.”
What is UF Health Street?
Founded in 2011 by Linda B. Cottler, PhD, MPH, chair of the department of epidemiology, UF HealthStreet works to reduce disparities in health care and research by linking community members to social and medical services and connecting people to opportunities to participate in health research. Jointly supported by the College of Medicine, the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, HealthStreet has locations in Gainesville and Jacksonville and reaches 26 counties across the state.
Total HealthStreet members — community residents who have enrolled in its program
HealthStreet recruits members in 26 counties throughout Florida
Number of researchers who have used HealthStreet to find study participants
Total number of services provided, including blood pressure and HIV screening, clothing closet and toiletry pantry, and more
Referrals provided for medical and social services to HealthStreet members
Data collected through May 2016