Sunday, October 19, 2014

Post #7 Ebola, Career Ambition, and Coming Up Short - My PhD Process: How I Survived a PhD in the Biological Sciences and Succeeded Afterward

With all the discussion about the Ebola outbreak that is going on in Africa, I can't help but think about my brushes with Ebola research. Ideally, I would have had more than "brushes" with Ebola by now, however I haven't been able to get a position (postdoc, fellowship, or other) where BSL-4 work is required.

When I was in college, Joseph McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch came to my undergraduate school (North Dakota State University) to give a talk and to promote their book "Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC". It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with them about their careers. I was always enthralled with the idea of working in BSL-4 conditions, ideally in the field. So I took advantage of a willing group of faculty who let me sit with them for when they talked with the guests (I was the only student). I don't remember specifics, but it had an effect. Plus, I got a signed copy of their book out of the deal!

If you have questions, please use the comments section below!

The options at my undergrad didn't exist for BSL-4 research, nor did it happen during my MS. I applied to UTMB-Galveston for my PhD, but didn't get accepted. I applied and interviewed for a post doc at Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI) in an Ebola lab. Didn't get it (the lab hired someone with previous BSL-4 experience). I applied and interviewed for a fellowship at USAMRIID in an Ebola lab. Didn't get it (got really good, better than expected reviews on my grant application, but DTRA didn't fund it, no go.) I applied for the CDC EIS program three years in a row. Never got an interview. I am certainly not done applying.

Below are two links. The first is for the grant I wrote, "Generation of a Gold Nanorod Vaccine against Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus". The second link is to the reviewer's comments.

1. Generation of a Gold Nanorod Vaccine against Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus
2. Reviewer's comments

I am more than likely not done applying to BSL-4 positions. At this point, I have a pretty diverse resume, and I have found I am happy doing a variety of jobs. Therefore, it may not happen. I am not going to focus only on BSL-4 jobs just because they are too few and geographically sparse. However, if the right opportunity presents itself, I would be all over it.

Good luck to everyone in the field working on the Ebola outbreak. It is a dream of mine.

  • Lance D. Presser has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and is a clinical/public health laboratorian.
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