Lab Matters Fall 2020 - Page 23

INFECTIOUS DISEASES

From Fellow to Staff in the Time of COVID-19 by Christin Hanigan , PhD , senior specialist , Advanced Molecular Detection

Kate
Prussing , PhD , MS , was a 2020-2021 APHL-CDC Bioinformatics fellow at the Wadsworth Center in Albany , NY . APHL interviewed Kate on how she became a fellow and transitioned to a full-time position at Wadsworth .
What encouraged you to apply for the fellowship ?
I have a master ’ s degree in infectious disease epidemiology and a PhD in biomedical science , during which I investigated the population genetics and microbiome of mosquitoes that transmit malaria . I applied for the fellowship because it seemed like a great way to combine my interests in public health and bioinformatics , and to use them in an applied public health setting .
How did you choose Wadsworth as your host lab ?
I completed my PhD at the University of Albany School of Public Health , during which I studied under and interacted with scientists mostly working on the basic research side of the Wadsworth Center . During that time , I also gained an appreciation for the breadth of public health , clinical testing and applied research activities that occur at Wadsworth . I chose Wadsworth as my host lab because I was excited by the prospect of learning more about and participating in these activities at such a large and well-established public health laboratory . Additionally , I was very interested in the fellowship projects that were proposed by my mentors at Wadsworth .
What was your fellowship project ?
During my fellowship , I developed a preliminary workflow for analyzing longand short-read whole genome sequencing data from carbapenem-resistant bacteria to investigate the genomic context of antibiotic resistance genes and assess the relatedness of antibiotic resistance plasmids . Based on this work , we were recently able to publish a paper describing an identical antibiotic resistance plasmid identified from three different bacterial species as part of a healthcare facilityassociated outbreak investigation .
How did you transition to your current position ?
In early March , I was asked along with staff and other fellows from across the Wadsworth Center to assist as part of the team conducting diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 . At around the same time , Wadsworth began recruiting scientists to work on the COVID-19 outbreak response team full-time as state employees . I applied for one of these positions and was lucky enough to be hired . It was an easy transition because my role on the outbreak response team stayed the same after I began the new position .
What role have you played in the COVID-19 response ?
I am a research scientist at the Wadsworth Center . Though I have recently been able to return to some of the bioinformatics projects I began working on during my fellowship , I also continue to be part of a large team of people conducting diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 . It has been an exciting time to get on-the-ground training in how clinical testing is conducted at a large public health laboratory during a public health emergency , and to learn to do so using a variety of testing platforms at multiple levels of automation . I feel lucky to be able to contribute a small part to what is a highly complex , center-wide effort .
Where do you see yourself in five years ?
I hope to be still working at the Wadsworth Center , using a combination of my experience in bioinformatics , molecular biology and epidemiology to contribute to clinical testing , surveillance and applied research activities . n
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