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New Faculty Friday

January 18, 2019

Amy Bei: Malaria expert, aspiring pilot, polyglot

The Yale School of Public Health proudly welcomes a large number of new tenure track faculty this academic year. These individuals have widely varied interests and excel in research, scholarship, innovation and teaching. They complement and expand the expertise already available at the School of Public Health and will be instrumental in addressing many of the health challenges of the 21st century.

Today we spotlight Amy Bei, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases. Amy is also affiliated with the Yale Institute for Global Health. She holds a Ph.D. in biological sciences in public health from Harvard University (2011) and a B.A. in biochemistry from Harvard College (2003).

Q: Describe your primary academic focus or research specialty?

AB: My research interests in Plasmodium—the causative agent of malaria—lie at the intersection between population genetics, genomics, molecular and experimental genetics, epidemiology, and immunology. My current research uses a translational systems biology approach to study the impact of antigenic diversity on immune evasion, transmission, and virulence in the setting of declining malaria transmission.  I am studying the development of genotype-specific and genotype-transcendent immunity and assessing the effect of specific persisting parasite genotypes on neutralizing humoral immune responses and their transmission potential in the mosquito vector.   

I also work on malaria vaccine candidate discovery and validation, studying the functional consequences of naturally arising diversity.  I have ongoing research projects in Senegal in addition to many active collaborations in Sub-Saharan African countries in both East and West Africa.

Q: What are your long-term goals in public health?

AB: I hope that my research will help us understand what happens in the field as we approach malaria elimination. We need to understand the impacts of declining transmission on immunity, disease severity, and how we need to adapt our control and surveillance efforts to the ever-changing disease dynamics.     

I hope that my research on malaria vaccine candidates and the genetic tools we are developing to evaluate the consequences of naturally arising diversity in candidate antigens will help contribute to a diversity-transcendent vaccine for malaria.

Further, I hope to continue building on the strong collaborations and mentoring relationships I have fostered over many years of working in malaria endemic countries to strengthen capacity for local malaria endemic scientists to achieve their own scientific and career goals, contributing to better prevention, surveillance, diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately elimination of malaria. 

Q: How will the resources available at the Yale School of Public Health help you achieve your goals?

AB: One of the most valuable resources at the Yale School Public Health is the network of diverse yet like-minded colleagues who are passionate about their research and mentoring and are committed to global public health – and who put this commitment into action! The collaborative environment at YSPH is a tremendous strength and I am very excited to have the opportunity to join such a vibrant and global academic environment.

Q: Tell us something about yourself away from public health? (E.g., hobbies, interests, pursuits, etc.)

AB: I have a fairly unusual combination of hobbies. Athletically, I was a competitive pole vaulter and saber fencer. I love the outdoors, especially hiking, camping, backpacking, and fly-fishing. I grow and roast my own coffee and love farming on the family farm in Senegal. I built a spinning wheel as a young girl and spin, dye, knit, and weave. Learning languages is an interest of mine as well, which both helps facilitate my international research as well as helps me communicate no matter where I am in the world. I love combining art and science and worked as a specimen illustrator during university. I am pursuing a personal pilot license and hope to achieve a seaplane rating so that I can fly bush planes and land on water.

Right now, my hobbies involve chasing around our two kids (who are getting close to outrunning me!) and exploring New Haven—our fabulous new home.

Submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on January 15, 2019