My transition from graduate student to postdoc has not followed the most traditional route. As often happens, the last few years of my graduate tenure were the most productive and yielded the two most exciting discoveries of my thesis work, which focused on bacterial motility and chemotaxis in the squid light-organ symbiont Vibrio fischeri. These projects, including a new collaboration with Sandy Parkinson at the University of Utah, were just gaining a foothold when I defended, and I really wanted to follow them through with my own hands. Hence, I decided to remain in Ned Ruby’s lab for another 10 months after the completion of my Ph.D. in order to develop these projects to a point where another lab member could not just take them over, but allow them to flourish.
In many ways, this brief appointment has been the best of all worlds, giving me the ability to focus exclusively on research, but without the immediate pressures of entering a new lab as a postdoc (ie. learning to work with a different organism, acclimating to lab dynamics, living in an unknown city, to name a few). It has really brought me back to the bench in a way I missed during the end of my time as a graduate student while I was focused on writing my thesis and reminded me why I love experimental science.
Even such an idyllic position, cannot last forever. So, I also spent some of this time considering where to focus my energies in the search for a full postdoc appointment. My time at the University of Wisconsin strengthened my interest in understanding the dynamic relationships between hosts and the bacteria around them. Rather than taking the bacterial perspective and seeking to characterize specificity determinants and other colonization factors as we do in Ned’s lab, I decided to focus on labs that look at the other side of the coin; that is, I wanted to join a lab that investigates how the host responds to the bacteria it encounters as part of its normal lifestyle. I considered several immunology and host-related positions, in labs that study both invertebrate and vertebrate model systems across the US and Europe. Ultimately, I elected to join the lab of Wendy Garrett at the Harvard School of Public Health, where I will be starting a position in December to investigate the mechanisms underlying how Fusobacterium species, normal constituents of the oral microbiota, contribute to colorectal cancer.
My graduate time at the UW has really shaped how I think about interactions between hosts and their associated microbes, particularly as influenced by the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, the Symbiosis Cluster, and the Microbes in Health and Disease training grant. As I progress in my career I will keep this training in mind as I hone this perspective and apply it to the scientific questions I seek to answer.
This year marks my 10th year anniversary of graduating from UW-Madison. Since graduating from the program, I have continued my education in the Department of Bacteriology and completed an MS with Professor Ron Schell before moving on to completing my MD at Boston University. During medical school, I found my true calling in Anesthesiology because I enjoyed solving problems by manipulating human physiology in real time. However, I had never forgotten about my roots in microbiology and my interest in infectious diseases. The marriage of my personal and clinical interests resulted in me pursuing a combined residency/fellowship in Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. Ever since the beginning of the program as an intern, I find myself being confident in interpreting microbiology lab results, targeting antibiotic treatment, and reducing hospital acquired infections, all thanks to the valuable teaching from Drs. Welch, Schrader, Manning, and Schell. There is not a day gone by in the ICU that I don't have to apply the very same principles that I learned over 10 years ago to solve complex clinical problem. I truly owe my little success to all the instructors and professors in the department. I am now in the last 18 months of my training and am taking on a more supervisory role as a clinical fellow in the ICU and working more independently in the OR. I am considering returning to Madison in the future for Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology fellowship.
I graduated with my BS in MMI in December, 2004. Prior to starting Medical School at UWSMPH in August, 2005 I worked as a research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Lynn Allen-Hoffmann in the Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. During my time at UWSMPH, I participated in the faculty development program at Harvard Medical School and did an externship at the Faculty of Medicine in Oslo, Norway. I started medical school thinking that I would pursue a subspecialty of Medicine. However, like every medical student I changed my mind a dozen times and by the middle of my 3rd year of medical school I ultimately decided on Anesthesiology and matched into the 4 year program at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons New York Presbyterian Hospital. While I used to think that Anesthesiology was a unique career path for an MMI major, I learned that 4 other MMI alums were also training to become Anesthes-iologists! As an intern in the ICUs and throughout my training at Columbia, I continued to rely on my training as an MMI major to manage septic patients both in the operating room and in the SAICU (Surgical-Anesthesia Intensive Care Unit). During my time at Columbia I continued my academic pursuits and co-authored 3 book chapters and 7 papers related to pain management and critical care. At the beginning of my final year at Columbia, I was elected Chief Resident and helped with the day to day activities of running a department with over 100 residents (the second largest residency program at Columbia). Now that my time at Columbia has come to end, I will be continuing my training as a Pain Fellow with the department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care at UCSF. I am very grateful for my time at UW and all of the mentoring that I received from Dr. Jon Woods and Dr. Rodney Welch, and I am excited for the next phase in my career.
After graduating with my BS in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from the UW-Madison in 2007, I attended medical school at the University of Iowa. Academically, it was an easy transition due to my education at UW, but I had trouble getting used to all of the black and gold Hawkeye apparel in Iowa City. I was initially interested in thoracic surgery and did research on physiologic pulmonary imaging utilizing computed tomography in a sheep model. I enjoyed the clinical hands -on nature of the research. During the clinical years of med school, my experience during the anesthesia rotation changed my career path. I loved the utilization of physiology, pharmacology, and critical care in one specialty that would allow me to care for all types of patients with complex medical comorbidities. I also enjoyed the immediacy of intra-operative patient management. I worked nights and weekends as an anesthesia technologist during my senior year of med school. Following graduation from med school I began my residency training in anesthesia and critical care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. I am currently starting the third year of my residency and looking forward to where my future takes me.
Heather Meiselman graduated in Spring 2010 after working with Dr. Robert Striker on testing the effect of Vitamin D on the replication of Dengue Virus. She is currently attending Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Israel, a school that incorporates the traditional medical school curriculum with global heath and medicine classes. BGU's Soroka University Medical Center serves a diverse patient population, including Bedouin and Ethiopian communities and immigrant Jews. In her fourth year, Heather will have the opportunity to attend a clinical clerkship at Columbia University, a center that focuses on global health or in a developing country.
When Heather decided to attend medical school in Israel, she was attracted to the idea of studying a unique curriculum in an exotic location. So far, school in Israel has been quite the adventure. A year ago, she could not imagine taking weekend trips to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or spending Succoth vacation in Jordan, hiking around Wadi Rum and visiting Petra. She was unaware of the close relationships she would build with her Israeli second cousins. Their location discovered only from Facebook. Yet, Heather only anticipated half of the challenges of beginning a new life in Israel - setting up a bank account, finding an apartment, signing a contract for a cell phone, and obtaining internet. In addition, learning Hebrew on top of her medical studies has not been the easiest feat. Even more difficult was becoming accustomed to different cultural peculiarities - having class Sunday through Thursday, realizing Israelis do not wait in "lines," and being able to taste just about everything in the supermarket before buying it. But the most difficult cultural difference she has had to overcome is having her backpack checked every time she enters a public building and accepting the presence of a bomb shelter on every floor of a building.
Encountering these challenges has been a blessing in disguise. Heather has learned a lot about herself and how to cope with new situations. She has discovered an inner strength and developed a strong independence. Although she will miss celebrating Thanksgiving, she is excited for the road ahead of her and happy that her adventure has just begun.
After graduating with a BS in Medical Microbiology, I went to work as a research assistant at NYU Medical Center in New York City. I ran a tissue culture lab, growing fibroblasts for various research products. I enjoyed this very much, but missed my "bugs". While working at the Medical Center I went back to school at night at NYU (paid for by NYU) and got a Master's and Ph.D. in Epidemiology. From there, I became a hospital epidemiologist specializing in infection control. After marrying, we moved to North Carolina where I continued my career as a hospital epidemiologist. Infection control was an emerging field back then, and it was a joyful time. In 1996 I started my own consulting company helping medical and dental facilities with infection control and OSHA training. North Carolina has some of the strictest infection control laws of all the states. Per our state law, any facility that performs invasive procedures must designate someone to take a certified state class in infection control and have specific infection control policies mandated by the state. One of my proudest accomplishments was putting the original program together and being the first person in North Carolina certified to teach these classes. Life has been good.
I am a Puerto Rico native, and I arrived to UW-Madison in August 2003. It was not an easy transition. The language barrier and graduate school were not easy tasks, and my first semester was very challenging. With a high determination, I conquered those challenges and I obtained an MS from the MMI Program in December of 2006 from Dr. Robert Striker’s laboratory. Very early in my studies I discovered a high affinity to public health related work, and I made it my goal to find a job at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, where I am currently. I have an amazing job. I work at the reference laboratory for the Pertussis (whopping cough) and Diphtheria laboratory, and I am also the Coordinator for the Latin American Pertussis Project (LAPP). Pertussis is the most poorly controlled bacterial vaccine preventable disease in the Americas. For LAPP I travel to Argentina, Panama and Mexico to do technology transfer for pertussis diagnostics, translate and coordinate trainings/protocols, do mentorship and technical assistance, and develop strong relationships with the ministries of health and stakeholders for each of the countries. This is a very rewarding job, and I have learned so much; not only about diagnostics and epidemiology but also about culture, socio-economics and politics. I am a true believer that you should dream big. The road to get to that big dream can be bumpy, but that just make the ride so much more interesting. One of my interests is to get involved with recent college graduates for career advice; you can do so much with a degree in microbiology. My long-term career goal is to eventually transfer to CDC-Dengue Branch in Puerto Rico to return not only to my island, but also to my virology roots.
Though I only graduated from the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program in 2010, I feel like I’ve been away from the MMI department for much longer. As a graduate student in James Bangs’ lab, I worked on answering basic scientific questions regarding protein trafficking and sphingolipid synthase activity in Trypanosoma brucei.
After completing my thesis, I opted to enter the medical field and am currently a Clinical Microbiology fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This two-year fellowship is focused on diagnostic microbiology which includes both hands-on training through the seven clinical labs (bacteriology, virology, parasitology, mycology, mycobacteriology, serology and HIV/Hepatitis) and didactic learning with Infectious Disease (ID) fellows.
There is so much basic and diagnostic microbiology to learn! Also, I just completed my clinical rotation during which I saw patients alongside the ID teams. I was able to help identify which diagnostic test(s) are appropriate to choose in a given situation and also observe how these results impact treatment decisions.
There is also a research component to this fellowship, aimed at bringing new dignostic assays into the clinical labs. I’ve been validating two different mass spectrometry instruments for identification of dermatophytes and yeast from culture – one of them will be implimented into daily workflow for the mycology lab soon. Ultimately this fellowship (and successful passing of the American Board of Medical Microbiology) will qualify me to become a clinical laboratory director and I can’t wait to see where I’ll end up next!
~ Elitza (Sevova) Theel, PhD 2010
My first stop after graduation was a postdoctoral position in Pat Schlievert’s lab at the University of Minnesota. I was fortunate to have two postdoc advisors and I was co-mentored by Gary Dunny at U of MN. During my time in MMI, I was a student in Joe Dillard’s lab and I focused on molecular genetics and protein characterization. The biggest challenge in moving to my postdoc lab was that my focus shifted to host-pathogen interactions. I went from studying a system for which there is no good animal model to understanding host-pathogen relationships in staphylococcal and enterococcal biofilm infections. A primary focus of the Schlievert lab is the study of staphylococcal toxins and I was able to use my training in molecular genetics and protein characterization for projects involving characterization of staphylococcal enterotoxins.
After 18 months in my postdoc position, I encountered an opportunity that I did not expect and that I could not refuse. I got a job offer as a senior microbiologist at 3M Company in St. Paul, MN. I have been working for 3M since 2010 in the company’s Corporate Research Laboratory, an organization that employs hundreds of laboratory scientists responsible for research and technology development. My colleagues are materials scientists, chemists, physicists, biologists, and engineers; and I love learning about diverse fields of science every day at my job. I work with my coworkers to develop technologies, mostly in the field of health care. My training at UW prepared me well for my job, especially in the area of science communication. Because my colleagues have diverse backgrounds, communicating my results and ideas clearly is essential to productive collaboration. I am looking forward to the day when my inventions are incorporated into commercialized products that improve the quality of life for patients.