The phrase “wash your hands” is a familiar command to all. This command takes on a new meaning in the elective, Virology, taught by Shawn Cyran. In fact, students who take this elective rarely forget the hundreds of different viruses hanging out on their hands.

“It was horrifying but I really learned my lesson to wash my hands,” sophomore Nishma Shah said. “I didn’t realize there were that many viruses that lived on each of our hands!”

Virology is the study of viruses. Consequently, virology is largely considered to be a subfield of medicine. It focuses on a variety of aspects related to viruses. This science includes the study of a virus’ structure, classification, physiology, immunity, diseases it causes and therapy regarding a virus. Notably, learning about viruses is applicable in the lives of students every day.

“I think it’s especially great to have kids in the first semester,” Mr. Cyran said. “The lessons learned about hygiene really prepare them for the upcoming flu season.”

In the Virology elective offered during ninth period on Mondays and Wednesdays, Mr. Cyran focuses on common viruses like influenza and how it spreads within schools and communities. He teaches these real-life problems by showing informative videos and conducting hands-on experiments.

“We watched a great movie called And the Band Played On about how a virus caused AIDS and led to destruction,” freshman Michelle Choi recalled. “It was informative and showed how a simple virus can really affect us.”

This course also includes a hands-on experience for learning about viruses. Students conducted an experiment to see just how many viruses they carried on their hands. By using a germ-stimulating powder, the viruses on students’ hands became visible under an Ultra Violet light. Through this process, the class learned and actually saw just how many invisible viruses lived on their hands. They did not identify each individual virus on their hand, but instead categorized the viruses into physical sizes. Notably, the average unwashed hand in this Virology class carried an estimated 200 viruses.

The next project planned for the Virology elective is to have students grow and “nurture” their own virus, an M13 bacteriophage. There is no danger involved as the virus they will be growing only destroys bacteria and does not affect human bodies. The purpose behind this experiment is to show the mechanism of a virus’ reproductive cycle.

“I’m really excited to grow my own virus,” sophomore Soomin Lee said. “I’m also happy that there’s no safety risk involved.”

Through both films and experiments, students in this elective learn the dangers and mechanisms of a hidden biological weapon, viruses.

“I love teaching this class because it serves as a reminder to myself to always wash my hands,” Mr. Cyran said.

A notable lesson to take away from the Virology elective is that there are not two, but three constants in life: death, taxes, and the presence of viruses.

A link to the movie And the Band Played On is found here: