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K-State Today

November 11, 2015



Biosecurity Research Institute Director Higgs honored

By Sarah Hancock

Prince Philip and Higgs

Stephen Higgs, director of the K-State Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, has received two honors in recent weeks.

On Oct. 28, Higgs was announced as the new president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, or ASTMH, the largest international scientific organization of experts dedicated to reducing the burden of tropical infectious diseases and improving health worldwide. The society was founded in 1903 and works toward its vision of a world free of tropical infectious diseases by advancing research and scientific collaboration, supporting career development, recognizing exceptional achievements, and educating medical professionals, policymakers and the public as it promotes science-based policy in tropical medicine and global health.

Higgs, whose research expertise is in mosquito-virus-vertebrate interactions, vector biology, arthropod-borne infectious diseases, immune modulation, and vaccine evaluation, has been a member of the society since 1993.

"It is been a part of my life — and my professional home — since I was a research assistant professor," Higgs said.

Membership has increased dramatically over the last few years, with more than a third of members outside the United States and an increasing number of trainees, including students, postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty and new medical doctors. As president, Higgs is continuing his long-standing dedication to fostering opportunities for young members and responding to the needs of international members.

A second event that was particularly meaningful for Higgs, who hails from England, was an invitation to Buckingham Palace for lunch with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Higgs and his wife, Dana Vanlandingham, were invited as members of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Director's Circle. Prince Philip talked to every person in the group for several minutes. Higgs reports that he told him about K-State and the BRI. Dana Vanlandingham told him about the College of Veterinary Medicine, where she is an assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology.

"It was the chance of a lifetime," said Higgs.

When his family asked why he was in England during October, a month known for poor weather, he told them that he was having lunch with Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace.

"They did not believe me at first and thought that I was joking," Higgs said, "but then I explained the situation. I will have to send them some photos as final proof that we really went."

A reception at The Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, followed the palace lunch.

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