Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am a professional student seeking a second graduate degree in entomology and plant pathology through the Herbert College of Agriculture. Professionally, I have worked as an infectious disease epidemiologist for the last eight years, but I have always been interested in zoonotic diseases. So, I started pursuing this degree because I am interested in the intersection of public health and insects as vectors of disease.
What are your current interests?
I am mostly interested in mosquitos, ticks, and fleas as they are transmitters of diseases like Yellow Fever, Malaria, Lyme disease, and plague (to name a few) all of which are very serious diseases investigated by public health epidemiologists every day.
What courses are you taking?
Just seminar. I graduate in December (YAY!)
How has your academic training at The University of Tennessee prepared you for a career in the industry?
Since I haven’t historically worked in vector-borne diseases (VBD), I have mostly worked in influenza and healthcare-associated diseases in the past, UT has exposed me to a lot of material that was very new to me. Now, having a background in entomology combined with my years of experience in public health, I believe I will make an ideal candidate for a VBD role within my current agency or at the state level.
What do you believe is your biggest academic achievement?
I’ve always been a pretty good student, but I would say this degree has been my hardest to achieve. Working in public health during a pandemic was difficult. Having a very unexpected traumatic accident and moving to a new state/ having a role change in the middle of my academic program has been a lot of adversity to overcome in two short years.
Can you tell me about your research?
For my graduate project, I worked on a delusional parasitosis (DP) needs assessment and the subsequent development of education and training materials.
Although DP isn’t a communicable disease, I got a unique opportunity to work on a delusional parasitosis project for over a year of my two years at UT. This was so interesting to me because it was one of the most complicated calls I received in my early years as an on-call epidemiologist and something that stayed with me. At the time, I didn’t know much about delusional parasitosis, and we had no resources or referrals for these callers. Five years later everything came full circle, and I am so excited to be able to shine a little light on a condition that is so burdensome to public health, entomologists, and many other professionals.
Any advice you would like to share with a prospective student?
The decision to go back to school is hard. I had a lot of unique challenges as a part-time professional student. So, I would recommend getting to know your advisor(s) well and not being afraid to go to them when school or life gets hard. They truly want to see you succeed and have been great listeners and creative solution generators for me throughout my time at UT.
What are your favorite hobbies?
Since I am a remote student and working full time, my free time is limited. I can usually be found hiking, walking, and hanging out with my dog.
Anything else you would like to add?
Be heard. When something is wrong, or something isn’t working speak up for yourself. You are your best advocate. And don’t ever give up on yourself, even when things get hard.