From Treating to Preventing: Meet UW’s Global Virus Network Scholar, Karl Ciuoderis

Karl Ciuoderis (left) and GHI Director Jorge Osorio conducting field research in the Amazon in Colombia. (Photo from Abbott)


Karl Ciuoderis holding a horse (his favorite animal!) as he trained to become a veterinarian (Photo from K. Ciuoderis)

By Kendall Buehl, GHI Staffer… Growing up in the Colombian countryside, Karl Ciuoderis knew he wanted to help animals. His love for domestic animals grew as they delightfully surrounded him on his family’s property.

“It was like a little zoo,” Ciuoderis laughed.

From that foundation, Ciuoderis cultivated a career to work on exactly what feels right and now shares his expertise with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) and School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM). Ciuoderis came to UW in October 2023, as a Global Virus Network (GVN) Scholar, where he takes on a variety of tasks, including collaborating with faculty and researchers at UW–Madison and across the world, writing and submitting grant proposals, working on scientific manuscripts, and supporting GHI in One Health efforts. 

Through the Abbott Pandemic Defense Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, funded by Abbott Labs, Ciuoderis is able to spend one year (with the possibility of a one-year extension) working as a GVN Scholar with GHI and SVM to expand his research, grant-writing, and networking skills.

Now that we know he is thriving in the present, let’s take a look at Karl Ciuoderis’ journey to GHI.

Karl Ciuoderis worked in zoos, taking care of young animals confiscated from illegal trade
(Photo from K. Ciuoderis)

As a curious youngster, surrounded by creatures of all kinds, Ciuoderis knew he wanted to help animals in some way. He focused his studies and received his undergraduate degree in Veterinary Science from Universidad de los Llanos in Villavicencio, Colombia. Soon after, he began working in wildlife labs and zoos, getting hands-on experiences clinically treating animals.

After responding to animal illnesses and issues in a veterinary role for some time, Ciuoderis took a step back to think about the root of the problem and asked, “What if I could prevent animal disease instead of treating it?“.

Here began his interest in learning and researching emerging infectious diseases.

“About 70% of diseases come from animals – and the majority of those come from wildlife,” Ciuoderis states. “This understanding is what led me to focus on Avian species.”

As his passion for disease prevention grew, Ciuoderis was especially grateful to live and work in Colombia – a region with the highest number of Avian species in the world. This provided ample creatures to study as he focused on his emerging infectious disease research.

Karl Ciuoderis assessing Avian species diversity in 2010 (Photo from K. Ciuoderis)

In 2009, Ciuoderis decided to make the move to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was a research assistant for four years in (now GHI Director) Jorge Osorio‘s lab in UW–Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Here, Ciuoderis worked on research projects such as West Nile Virus in mosquitoes, and Influenza in migratory birds.

Ciuoderis went on to earn his master’s in biomedical science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2015, after two years of intensive study.

Although sorry to leave Madison, Ciuoderis went back to Colombia to pursue a PhD in Veterinary Science from Universidad de Antioquia, which he completed in 2022.

Even more, while studying for his PhD, Ciuoderis was simultaneously working at the GHI One Health Center – Colombia (formerly known as the Colombia/Wisconsin One Health Consortium) as one of their lead supervisors. He was managing projects, organizing research and fieldwork, building teamwork skills, completing administrative tasks, and managing a 20-person team.

By this point, Ciuoderis has been and will continue to be on a brilliant path toward advancing One Health for all. Truly, his academic hunger for sustainable solutions cannot be waned.

Karl Ciuoderis looking for landing sites and locations of migratory birds for influenza virus detection in the Llanos region of Colombia in 2014
(Photo from K. Ciuoderis)

While recalling such impressive accomplishments, Ciuoderis shared how his relationship with GHI Director, Jorge Osorio, helped him learn along the way, ever since their first meeting in 2009.

“His willingness to let you solve problems gives you the opportunity to think in a different way and say, ‘How am I going to do this?'” Ciuoderis notes. “Jorge advises you, but lets you think for yourself and be critical about what you’re doing.”

With a goal-oriented vision where ideas surface and are almost immediately put into action, Osorio kindly pushes himself, and others, to achieve their full potential.

“We are delighted to host Dr. Ciuoderis for his postdoctoral fellowship,” says GHI Director Jorge Osorio. “Having known Karl for over a decade, I am happy to support his passion for epidemiology and virology as he connects these understandings back to Colombia, his home country, where viral emerging diseases are a regular threat.”

Karl Ciuoderis working in the lab as he completed his master’s degree in biomedical science
(Photo from K. Ciuoderis)

As a GVN Scholar with GHI and SVM, Ciuoderis not only continues his passion for researching emerging infectious diseases, but he also builds lifelong skills to treasure in his busy career. Such skills include grant writing, team leading, and networking, which he is already starting to put into practice. He has contributed to high-level grant submissions, managed projects and teams, and built meaningful connections with faculty and researchers at UW–Madison and institutions across the world.

Keeping in mind this ever-changing field of research, he wants to mitigate risk, develop vaccines and other tools, and eventually find himself in a faculty position in Colombia to keep growing and generating ideas. He is a true example of the Wisconsin Idea in global action, because, as we know, Badgers never stop innovating.

If you want to learn more about Karl Ciuoderis’ experiences in Wisconsin and Colombia, contact him at coord_cwohc@unal.edu.co.