About Me

Thanks for visiting! My name is Ian M. Mackay, a Supervising Scientist and an adjunct Associate Professor (University of Queensland). I have a PhD in virology.

From 1992 to 2015 I discovered, characterised, detected, manuipulted, grew, visualised and generally worked with viruses as a scientist at the Queensland paediatric infectious diseases (Qpid) laboratory (f. Clinical Virology Research Unit) housed at the Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Centre (SASVRC). At one point Qpid was affiliated with the Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute but the Institute didn’t survive. Neither did SASVRC really, but it saw a lot of research and researchers in its time. I was initially a research assistant, completed an MSc(Qual) and then a PhD in virology. This talked about the development and application of molecular diagnostics, which in turn found and characterised human metapneumovirus (hMPV) in Australia. It also included some gene therapy. The initial project fell apart as these things sometimes do so I made the best of a bad situation. I sought and received some research projects and grants (my first came right after my PhD was conveyed and they didn’t stop until about 2012. Then didn’t get grants. Then I left research in 2015 for a range of reasons including wanting to actually use my science for good and see something more real for my efforts, not enjoying my laboratory working environment and not being able to get funding.

All of this has occurred in Brisbane, South-East Queensland, Australia.

VDU was originally created on a 486DX2/66 at home – then on a Gateway Pentium II (128Mb RAM and 6.4Gb HDD) on its 17″ monitor, then my Dell Pentium III 1000MHz (128Mb RAM, 10Gb HDD) notebook, an Acer Pentium 4 3GHz (1Gb RAM, 120Gb HDD), then a Dell XPS8300 (16Gb RAM, corei7-2600 CPU@3.4GHz) or XPSL321X ultrabook (4Gb RAM, core i7-2637M CPU@1.7GHz) and now on a Dell. The site was only a few pages to begin with, but grew in an ad hoc fashion. I liked to change my mind on what style looked good. The site was designed using Coffee Cup with a little stint using Dreamweaver. VDU was hosted on the University of Queensland student servers back in the day, then supported on eth staff servers by SASVRC, but eventually I closed the website down.

And then I started a blog (the two overlapped for a time). The blog, and the use of social media, began on an Easter school holiday at the suggestion of my partner, Dr Arden. It started with little clippings of things, focussing mostly on influenza H7N9 and MERS-CoV. Prior to all this I was very anti anything-to-do-with-social-media. Now I use Twitter and my blog to try and breakdown science, grump a bit, highlight lies and write about topical virus-related things. I’m also trying to be a better example of a white male human being. I’m late to that. But I’m trying.

I’m not a teacher, although all researchers do teach to some extent. I’m not a graphic designer, although I like to play. I’m no computer expert, faaaarrrrrr from it but I am my household’s network manager! I’m certainly not a literary scholar or writer, hence the frequent typos and simplistic text. But I have found that I enjoy writing – especially when it isn’t a grant application.

All that said, I have a desire to try and get across a simpler version of the often dense, usually dry, sometimes deliberately confusing information that various people have for years tried to place in my head, or that I have simply picked up in the course of my research and scientific life.

During my working life, science communication has become a thing. It’s a long way from being part of the considered workload for many scientists but it should be and we need to do better to convey the need for it among our scientist peers.

There is no external funding of VDU, no payment for the personal time used to write, research or maintain the site, nor anything but personal time and funds used to host the site, pay for the computers, screens, storage, books, software subscriptions, home office maintenance or the electricity used. I consider this my contribution to amateur science communication. Imperfect though that contribution may be. Imposter syndrome is strong in this house.

Most of the information I publish has references to a source. I don’t intend this site to be a one-stop shop for homework or assignments but I do hope it can convey some of the knowledge about some viruses and virus–related events in a way that (a) stand the test of time for a little while, (b) is in a form that at least some of you can learn from and (c), doesn’t have too many lists. Failing that, I know I learn new things each time I research a blog post. That point, along with having a resource of information in the form of posts that I can point others to, is enough for me for now.