Raina MacIntyre is a professor of global biosecurity at the Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia, and an adjunct professor at Arizona State University. She heads the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute, which researches prediction, control, and prevention of epidemic infectious diseases, pandemics, and bioterrorism. Before taking part in a Zócalo/Getty panel titled “Is Civilization on the Verge of Collapse?” and held at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, MacIntyre spoke in the green room about super viruses, being an extra in Opera Australia’s production of a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, and why she wants to be a whale.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Sydney?
I think it’s an Indian restaurant called the Tea & Curry House.
If you could be any animal, which would you want to be?
I think I’d be a whale, far away from land—and people.
What keeps you up at night?
The area of my research keeps me up at night. Biological technology now makes it possible to engineer or even create new viruses. Super viruses, and so on.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Biohazard by Ken Alibek, which is about the Soviet bioweapons program.
What relaxes you?
What year, past or future, would you time travel to if you could?
I think I would go to the pre-Industrial Revolution period and see how simple life was back then.
What’s the most challenging thing about your profession?
Juggling the work-life balance.
How do you procrastinate?
I don’t tend to be a procrastinator unless it’s a really difficult conversation that I have to have, in which case I think about how to plan the conversation. I don’t go into it without planning.
What’s the strangest job you’ve had?
I was an extra in the Australian opera and got to play a fairy or something in Benjamin Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was back in the green room with these divas and famous opera singers. Dame Joan Sutherland was the female lead.
What worries you most about the future?
That there might not be one.