I'm in the Molecular Pathology Group, and what we do is a variety of basic research and clinical tasks that relate to molecular pathology. What that means is looking at disease through molecular genetic changes. Traditional pathologists would make diagnoses by looking under the microscope. We try to make, or supplement making diagnoses by looking at gene changes.
So our task, in general, for our clinical duties is to actually analyze genetic changes in patient samples that are submitted. Most of these samples are submitted the way pathology samples are traditionally processed. They're fixed in chemicals like formaldehyde and then imbedded in wax. So it becomes very difficult to isolate and analyze DNA or RNA from this kind of tissue, since it's very degraded. So we've put a lot of effort into optimizing methods to isolate nucleic acids from this kind of tissue. And particularly, the ability to get RNA, which is much more fragile than DNA out of this kind of tissue has been a big task of the lab. It was optimizing a technique that would allow us to do that, that was the basis for the idea of why we should do the 1918 influenza project.