Student Spotlight: Katarina Braun


South Wales, New York

Year entered CMB program:



Thomas Friedrich


Brief Summary of Research:

I study the evolution of influenza viruses by applying the principles of population genetics to deep sequencing data with the goal of understanding how both inter- and intraspecies transmission events affect genetic diversity and fitness of entire population of influenza virus. Better characterization of these bottleneck events will improve our understanding of human spillover infections and better equip us to predict cyclical influenza pandemic events.

Awards and Publications:

Honors and Awards: 2018 Woods Hole Workshop on Molecular Evolution graduate; 2014 – 2018 Rath Distinguished Graduate Research Fellowship.

Peer-reviewed publications 1. Braun KM, Schultz-Darken N, Schneider M, Moore CF, Emborg ME (2015). Development of a novel postnatal neurobehavioral scale for evaluation of common marmoset monkeys. American Journal of Primatology, 77(4): 401-417. PMCID: PMC4374045. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22356. 2. Corinne AJ, Duffy MK, Hoffman SA, Schultz-Darken NJ, Braun KM, Ciucci MR, Emborg ME (2018). Vocalization development in common marmosets for neurodegenerative translational modeling. Neurological Research, 1:9. Awaiting PMCID. DOI: 10.1080/01616412.2018.1438226. 3. Florek NW, Campos LM, Braun KM, McLean HQ, King JP, Flannery B, Belongia EA, Friedrich TC (2017). An updated influenza A(H3N2) vaccine generates limited antibody responses to previously encountered antigens in children. Vaccine, 36(5) p758-746. PMCID: PMC5773382. DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.12.024. 4. Vermilyea SC, Guthrie S, Meyer M, Smuga-Otto K, Braun KM, Howden S, Thomson JA, Zhang SC, Emborg ME, Golos TG (2017). Induced pluripotent stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons from adult common marmoset fibroblasts. Stem Cells Dev, 26(17): 1225-1235. PMCID: PMC5576272. DOI: 10.1089/scd.2017.0069. 5. Schultz-Darken, Braun KM, Emborg ME (2016). Neurobehavioral development of common marmoset monkeys. Developmental Psychobiology, 58(2): 141-158. PMCID: PMC4829073. DOI: 10.1002/dev.21360.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

During my first year in medical school I developed an interest in infectious diseases and became aware of Dr. Friedrich’s work and of the new and exciting research coming out of the group of labs at the AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory (AVRL). In between my first and second years of medical school I did four rotations and it quickly became clear that the Friedrich group’s research objectives and environment were well-suited to me. The Friedrich group studies rapidly-evolving and newly emerged pathogenic viruses. Our lab group is unique in that we are interested in designing and carrying out in vitro and in vivo viral transmission and pathogenesis studies, but we are also interested in analyzing viral deep sequencing data from these studies via the lens of evolution and population genetics. In short the Friedrich group is interested in questions at the interface of evolution, epidemiology, and virology. This combination is perfectly suited to my interests in infectious diseases, human health, and molecular evolution.

What is the best conference/seminar you have ever attended? Why?

The Woods Hole workshop on molecular evolution was a fantastic workshop where I was able to take a deep dive into phylogenetics and molecular evolution. It was an immersive and transformative experience — it changed the way I thought about my research questions.

What lessons have you learned throughout your graduate career so far?

1. Resiliency is important. 2. Collaboration is critical. 3. You have to work hard, but you also have to be a little lucky. 4. You have to protect yourself against burnout using self-care, time with friends/family, and puppy cuddles.

What are your long-term career goals?

I intend to pursue a career as a physician-scientist focused fundamentally on questions regarding the evolution of pathogenic viruses.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I have two dogs – their names are Goose and Monkey.

What is the most fun part of your research?

Collaborating with other graduate students, technicians, and scientists at the AIDs Vaccine Research Laboratory.