USF Marine Science Professor Mya Breitbart Named to Popular Science ‘Brilliant 10’


Mya Breitbart, a USF Associate Professor of biological oceanography who is one of the nation’s premier virus hunters, has been named one  of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” for 2013.





By Vickie Chachere

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2013) – Mya Breitbart, a University of South Florida Associate Professor of biological oceanography who is one of the nation’s premier virus hunters, has been named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” for 2013 – a coveted award that recognizes the nation’s brightest young scientific minds.


Breitbart, 35, leads a laboratory at USF’s College of Marine Science that has created ground-breaking ways to identify and combat animal, plant and human illnesses caused by viruses.

“I am thrilled to be included in Popular Science’s 2013 Brilliant 10 class and absolutely humbled to be recognized with nine other scientists whose work is amazing, “ Breitbart said.

 “Like so many others, I grew up reading Popular Science and loved the spirit of discovery, invention and creativity this iconic publication brings to readers of all ages. I came to love science through learning about the work and adventures of scientists before me, and hope a new generation of scientists is motivated and inspired by our stories as well.”

Each year, Popular Science picks 10 North America-based scientists, doctors or engineers who are the most innovative, incisive, creative and groundbreaking researchers in their fields who are not only making important contributions to their scientific disciplines, but are changing how other scientists think or work.

"Popular Science prides itself on revealing the innovations and ideas that are laying today's groundwork for tomorrow's breakthroughs, and the Briliant 10 is one of the most exciting ways we do that," said Jake Ward, Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science.

"This collection of 10 brililant young researchers is our chance to honor the most promising work - and the most hard-working people - in science and technology today. This year's winners are particularly distinguished and I'm proud to welcome them all as members of the 2013 Brilliant 10."

Breitbart was recognized for her pioneering work in developing a method of identifying mystery viruses through DNA analysis, also known as metagenomics. Breitbart’s techniques have allowed researchers to identify unknown viruses and understand how the viruses spread through the plant and animal world through known carriers, such as mosquitoes, and seemingly harmless organisms, such as dragonflies.

Her work addresses what had long been a shortcoming in science: No single test exists for all viruses. That is why the traditional laboratory process for identifying viruses has required many individual tests for specific viruses, a time-consuming process that can thwart efforts to control outbreaks.

Breitbart’s virus identification method can be applied across a wide range of sample types, changing the way that viral surveillance is performed worldwide. In 2013, her lab produced cutting-edge work as the first to show viruses in marine copepods (the most abundant animals in the oceans).  In addition, viral metagenomics has changed current knowledge of virus–host interactions by uncovering genes that may allow viruses to manipulate their hosts in unexpected ways.

“Emerging viral infections are a universal threat, affecting the health of humans, plants, and other animals with devastating economic and social impacts,” Breitbart said.

“My research has enabled the proactive identification of viruses with disease potential, before they cause significant losses.  Additionally, we can create baseline knowledge of viruses present in healthy organisms which could become pathogenic under certain stressful environmental conditions and is critical for comparison with diseased individuals.”

Active in several organizations that introduce and support children and younger students’ interest in science, Breitbart also credits the Girl Scouts with fostering an early love of science and the environment.

An accomplished nature photographer, Breitbart has used her access to beautiful and fragile environments to help educate the public through photography. She has hosted two shows of photographic works in St. Petersburg, her photographs of Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico, have been featured in Astrobiology Magazine, and she has worked with colleagues to produce bilingual videos to educate many about this particularly unique environment

The complete Popular Science “Brilliant 10” can be seen at

Visit the Breitbart Lab at and learn more about Mya Breitbart’s published research at

Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.