Virus Evolution: Combating Disease in the Modern Age

Course Description

At the nation’s capital, you will be immersed in the world of deadly diseases from one of the Army's leading scientists on COVID vaccines and therapeutics. In today’s world, scientists acknowledge that another disease outbreak is inevitable, and even with our best minds and technologies, viruses will continue to pose a threat to our very existence. Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 can outmaneuver and genetically mutate to defeat even our best medicines, so how do we survive?

The ability to predict the next biological threat or disease is dependent on fast-paced, cutting-edge technologies wielded by highly-trained researchers. A key component to predicting the next outbreak is understanding what viruses and diseases are newly emerging within our population, whether arising from the open ocean, deep jungles or barren deserts. This course takes an in-depth view of obscure pathogenic agents with a focus on viruses that have fatal outcomes or no cure, such as rabies, flaviviruses (e.g. Ebola), coronaviruses (such as SARS and MERS), Nipah and many more.

You will split your time between hands-on experiments in laboratories, in-class lessons where experienced scientists will guide you through the inner workings of viruses and breakthrough technologies, as well as field trips to museums that showcase plagues of disease throughout American history. Hands-on experiments include growing your own microbes and dissecting key animal tissues that are especially susceptible to certain infections.

The course will immerse you in the following areas of vaccinology and disease:

  1. The fundamentals of immunology and microbiology
  2. The pathogens responsible for several major fatal diseases, along with their current treatments
  3. The underlying pathways for vaccines, antibiotics and drug-resistance
  4. The historical relevance of infections in society and the scientific pioneers who created the field of microbiology
  5. Core experimental microbiology and dissection techniques
By the end of this course, you will have explanations to your lingering questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, ideas on how to mitigate the next outbreak and how to progress your education toward a productive career fighting these deadly foes.

For more information, please see the program website.


Having taken an introductory biology or anatomy course will be advantageous. Students who do not have a strong biology background are encouraged to review basic biology text books beforehand. This course is intentionally designed to prepare advanced high school students for college-level curriculum and pace.


This course is no longer being offered.