Wadsworth Center is committed to the continuing education of the next generation of public health laboratorians. In partnership with the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Wadsworth Center has offered full-time, working fellowships to graduate and post-graduate scientists for more than 25 years. These fellowships continue the career training for the participants while supporting public health initiatives and workforce capacity at Wadsworth Center. Fellows are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities for diagnostic, investigative, and leadership careers in public health. After completion of their fellowship, many continue working at Wadsworth Center as Research Scientists, while others continue their careers at other public health laboratories or in healthcare, industry, or academia.
Wadsworth Center is a comprehensive and dynamic scientific community that merges clinical and environmental public health testing with fundamental, applied, and translational research. A public health laboratory leader for over 100 years, Wadsworth Center remains on the forefront of bioinformatics; genomics; emerging infectious disease surveillance; environmental monitoring for microbiological, chemical, and radiological toxicants; human biomonitoring for trace elements, pesticides, and industrial chemicals; and emergency response to chemical and microbiological threats. Fellows can be involved in projects ranging from development and implementation of new assays, outbreak investigation, and research at the bench addressing questions of basic science. Fellows are members of the general scientific community at Wadsworth Center and participate in the same educational and training opportunities offered to other staff. They also meet regularly as a fellowship group for trainings on all aspects of the laboratory including safety, quality assurance, management and leadership, plus fundamental business operations.
The 2021-2022 cohort at Wadsworth Center consists of six fellows supported through two fellowship programs. The APHL/CDC fellowship program supports fellows for one year with the option to extend to a second year depending on the availability of funding. The Wadsworth Center Fellowship Program is a full-time, two-year (post-doctoral), or one-year (post-baccalaureate or post-master’s level) program. Fellows follow a core curriculum covering general, cross-cutting, and specialized competencies for Public Health Laboratory Professionals in addition to developing hands-on experience in a particular focus area such as Infectious Diseases or Bioinformatics.
Nora received a B.S. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Vermont and an M.P.H. in Epidemiology and Global Health from the Colorado School of Public Health before becoming an APHL fellow. Her initial assignment for APHL was working on COVID for the Indiana Department of Health. She then joined the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at Wadsworth Center in July of 2021.
With Dr. Patrick Bryant as her mentor, Nora’s work focused on whole genome sequencing (WGS) of Hepatitis A virus to improve outbreak detection and response. Using WGS to map genetic relatedness among viruses recovered from patients across New York State can identify likely chains of transmission. By partnering with epidemiologists from the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Communicable Disease Control to link additional risk factors from cases from the 2019 outbreaks to their viral genomes, Nora’s efforts contribute to our understanding of how Hepatitis A virus spreads and where to focus control measures. The project additionally facilitated the switch to a more effective and faster testing platform for continued sequencing of Hepatitis A viruses in the future.
As her fellowship concludes, Nora is looking forward to returning to school to complete a Ph.D. in epidemiology at George Mason University and eventually working with infectious diseases on a global scale.
Nathalie double majored in Biology and Industrial Microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and then obtained her Master of Science in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester. After her master’s program was forced to shift to remote learning during the pandemic, Nathalie was pleased to join the fellowship program at Wadsworth Center in September of 2021, where she could gain hands-on laboratory experience that hadn’t been possible during remote learning.
Nathalie is working with Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Dr. Jon Paczkowski’s Microbial Signal Transduction and Cell-cell Communication Laboratory. This pathogenic bacterium uses quorum sensing, the ability for bacterial cells to communicate with each other when a certain population density has been reached. Quorum sensing affects expression of virulence factors which can facilitate infection and cause disease. By investigating the interactions of proteins and the receptors involved in quorum sensing and then determining how those interactions influence transcription of genes and expression of virulence factors, therapies can be developed to disrupt the pathways and decrease severity of disease.
Following her fellowship, Nathalie plans to apply to a Ph.D. program with the eventual goal of working in infectious diseases for the government or industry. For now, she is continuing to build her research experience in the Paczkowski Laboratory and encourages those around her to not be discouraged by the hurdles that appear before us - even if progress is slow, reaching your goals is possible.
Kate began her Wadsworth Center Fellowship in September of 2021. She double-majored in Biological Sciences and Evolutionary Anthropology at Rutgers University which then led to a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Binghamton University. When considering options for post-doctoral work, Kate was interested in focusing on applied science and the Wadsworth Center Fellowship was a great fit for her career goals.
Kate has supported COVID-19 response efforts and continues to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the virus through her SeroNet work. SeroNet is the nation’s largest coordinated effort to study the immune response to COVID-19, involving scientists from 25 biomedical research institutions plus federal agencies. At Wadsworth Center, Dr. Nicholas Mantis is the Principal Investigator for the grant. Scientists from his laboratory as well as the Diagnostic Immunology and Bloodborne Viruses laboratories are working with SeroNet. Under the guidance of Drs. Monica Parker and Linda Styer, Kate is currently leading a joint project with researchers at Johns Hopkins University to determine if saliva can be used as a specimen source interchangeably with the dried blood spot specimens currently used for testing. Each specimen type has a different antibody profile and the changing detectable immune response affected by vaccination, exposure, and infection history over time adds to the challenges in this work.
As her fellowship continues, Kate is also expanding her training and experience in both technical skills and general laboratory management.
Grace received her B.A. in biology from Skidmore College in 2021 and began her Wadsworth Center Fellowship in August of that year. She is currently working in the Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology Laboratory under the guidance of Dr. Nicholas Mantis. The focus of Grace’s research is on the Outer surface protein C (OspC) of Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of Lyme Disease. This bacterial pathogen is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States and New York is considered a high-endemicity state. The impacts of climate change can be seen locally as the tick that carries and transmits B. burgdorferi continues its geographic spread throughout New York. Consequently, the number of residents at risk of disease continues to grow as well. By studying the linear peptides of OspC and the antibodies developed in response to those peptides, Grace hopes to inform development of monoclonal antibody treatments, which could be offered as early intervention in preventing the complications of Lyme Disease.
When her fellowship ends, Grace is planning to return to school to further her education. She is currently deciding between obtaining a Ph.D. and attending medical school.
When Jasleen saw the internet posting about the Wadsworth Center Fellowship Program, she felt that it was the perfect opportunity for her. She joined the program in September of 2021 after completing a B.S. in Biology with departmental honors from Stony Brook University and with two years of experience researching the use of 3D printers to build skin grafts with embedded vasculature at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine. The fellowship aligned with her desire to further explore the laboratory and develop a broad range of skills and experiences instead of being restricted in a more traditional laboratory technologist role.
Dr. Linda Styer is Jasleen’s mentor and has overseen her work on four different projects during her fellowship. Jasleen has contributed to two studies under the umbrella of SeroNet, the national consortium studying the immune response to COVID-19. She validated an 8-plex antibody assay for dried blood spot specimens and supported the research into saliva as an alternative specimen type with a comprehensive literature review. Jasleen has also validated a quantitative assay using dried blood spot specimens for detecting HIV-1 RNA on a high-throughput testing platform. She has worked to identify drug resistant strains of HIV-2 to guide the best treatment plan for infected patients.
Jasleen plans to continue to work in public health because the laboratory work and applied research she is doing have an immediate impact on patients and the community. Her previous experience with non-profit organizations supporting the education of girls in India and around the world has also influenced her decision to return to school, after the completion of her fellowship, to pursue a Master of Public Health degree.
Shannon completed her Ph.D. in microbiology at Cornell University and arrived at the Wadsworth Center in July 2021 after a dissertation committee member suggested the APHL fellowship program.
With Dr. Kimberlee Musser as her mentor, Shannon has been developing an assay to perform whole-genome sequencing directly from a primary specimen instead of having to isolate the notoriously slow-growing Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria first. Furthermore, the new assay detects mutations in 13 different genes at one time, providing detailed antimicrobial resistance data for treatment while also saving time, effort, and materials in the laboratory. Shannon is also expanding her knowledge in the regulatory environment by preparing documents needed for the New York State Department of Health Clinical Laboratory Evaluation Program (CLEP) to approve the new assay for clinical use.
In the future, Shannon has interest in learning about other Wadsworth Center laboratory sections and gaining experience in both the leadership and general management aspects of the clinical laboratory.