Why are children in day care more likely to get sick than children who are cared for at home? A.J. Prussin, who is expecting his first child soon, is doing research to find out.

Prussin, a postdoctoral researcher with the Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech, has received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowship to support his study of bacterial and viral microorganism communities, or microbiomes, in the air and on surfaces, such as tables and toys, at a local day care center.

Samples will be tested to determine seasonal changes in the viral and bacterial microbiomes and characterize the indoor environment of the day care center.

Outreach is also an important part of Prussin’s research. He will visit day care centers to teach children the importance of hand-washing. In an interactive activity, he will show the children the microbiomes on their hands before and after washing.

Prussin received a bachelor of science in biochemistry and biology, and his Ph.D. in plant pathology, physiology and weed science, all at Virginia Tech. His postdoctoral work, advised by Linsey Marr, is in civil and environmental engineering – all of which is called upon by the research project, which requires expertise in engineering, microbiology, molecular biology and bioinformatics. “I love interdisciplinary research. It is the way of the future,” said Prussin.

The $120,000 fellowship is from the Sloan Foundation Microbiology of the Built Environment program.



Written by Kelly Kaiser.


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