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Virtual STEM Café: The Science behind the Virus

April 27, 2020

As you sort through all the new information about COVID-19, wouldn’t you like to have a microbiologist explain it all to you? You can – at the next online STEM Café, sponsored by NIU STEAM in the Northern Illinois University Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development.

Assistant Professor Pallavi Singh from the Department of Biological Sciences will be the presenter at an upcoming STEM Café about COVID-19.

Learn the science behind the COVID-19 virus with NIU Biology Assistant Professor Pallavi Singh at 6 p.m. on April 29, 2020.

Professor Singh will address:

  • What is a virus?
  • What makes viruses different from other infectious agents, specifically bacteria?
  • Why are some viruses so deadly?
  • What can we learn from historical viral pandemics?
  • What is the latest COVID-19 research?

Singh is a molecular microbiologist whose research focuses on microbial factors related to foodborne infections, including the intestinal microbial communities of animals and humans. These microbial communities consist of bacteria, viruses and eukaryotic microbes.

Singh says that, although she is not a virologist, “My research experience in zoonotic pathogens and gut microbiome puts me at an advantage in understanding the current pandemic scientifically and communicating about it to the community at large.” (Zoonotic refers to an infection that can be transmitted to humans from animals.)

Professor Singh says people might be surprised to learn that viruses are actually non-living entities and that not all viruses are harmful to humans.

Attendees will learn the science behind viruses and take away knowledge of how humans can prevent future zoonotic transmissions.

To access the online meeting, go to between 5:30 and 5:50 p.m. on April 29. The presentation will begin promptly at 6 p.m. and will last approximately two hours. On a computer, the Chrome browser works best, and you will be asked to download the Adobe Connect app. For tablets and mobile phones, go to your app store and download the Adobe Connect mobile app before attending. You will be able to listen to the speaker and will have a chance to type in your questions.

Northern Illinois University STEM Cafés are sponsored by NIU STEAM and are designed to increase public awareness of the critical role that STEM fields play in our everyday lives. For more information, visit or contact Judith Dymond, Ed.D., at 815-753-4751 or email [email protected].