Episode 12: The Biology and Genetics of COVID-19 with Prof. Steve James ’80

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1

President’s Office


In Episode 12 of Conversations Beneath the Cupola, podcast host, Gettysburg College President Robert W. Iuliano, is joined by Biology Prof. Steve James ’80. Iuliano and James discuss the biology and genetics of COVID-19, its origins, how properties of the virus are affecting the development of a vaccine, and other related topics.

The episode begins with James sharing with Iuliano how he adjusted one of his biology courses to include topics related to COVID-19 when the semester shifted to remote learning. In making a transition to a topic that was relevant to all students, James says he saw performance increase and received positive feedback from students who appreciated knowing more about the disease and having a firm understanding of where it came from, what it is, and its effects on the human body.

The conversation continues with James simplifying the complexity of COVID-19 and explaining how it differs from other coronaviruses. James also further discusses the origin of COVID-19 and what progress is being made toward a successful vaccine. He says that from his understanding, there are as many as 90 vaccine trials underway globally, and we are advancing this at a pace that the world has never seen before.

Iuliano’s last question to James is what he predicts the lasting impact of COVID-19 will be on society. James shares that his hope is that COVID-19 spurs change that substantively addresses income inequality, institutional biases, and brings about a society with better safety nets and opportunities for everyone.

The episode concludes with an anecdotal “Slice of Life” told from the president’s perspective. Iuliano shines light on how Musselman Library staff is continuing to support students remotely during finals week and the conclusion of the spring semester. Some of their efforts included a spirit week, a virtual “study break” with stress relief activities, and “Lattes with a Librarian,” during which students could receive one-on-one research help on their projects and papers.


A full transcript of the podcast is available on the podcast website.