A Day in the life of an Infectious Disease Researcher

Written by Valeria Scorza Reading time: 4 mins

Can you give us a brief outline of your job?

As an infectious disease researcher, I perform a variety of activities, such as writing grant proposals, working in research studies, and teaching students laboratory techniques.

 Where did your interest in working in this sector come from?

I have always been interested in infectious diseases, specifically zoonotic diseases. At the beginning of my career, I was interested in companion animal zoonoses. Later, I worked with wildlife samples, and then my interests progressed to studying infectious diseases using the One Health Approach.   

How did you get into it?

I started my career as a volunteer in small animal practice and in a clinical pathology veterinary laboratory. During that time, I developed a strong interest in infectious diseases, and I decided to pursue a Master’s degree (Characterization of Cryptosporidium spp. in cats and dogs). Afterwards, I continued a PhD in molecular characterization and treatment of Giardia and Cryptosporidium in companion animals. Then I expanded my interests to vector- borne pathogens, and I am currently performing studies using the One Health Approach.   

What sort of different roles did you do to get to where you are today?

I started as a volunteer in a small animal practice, and I also worked at a veterinary diagnostics laboratory. Then I visited Colorado State University ‘s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where I obtained my graduate training. While in graduate school, I was a research assistant, then a post-doctoral fellow. I am currently an instructor at the Center for Companion Animal Studies.

Did you have a plan to get to a certain point/level in your career Or did you just keep picking moves that looked interesting to you?

Initially, I was not sure of which path to follow. I liked both the clinical and laboratory work. However, the clinical work was very stressful, so I decided that if I wanted to be a researcher, I needed to attend graduate school. I started a Master’s degree and since I liked the academic work, decided to pursue a PhD. So, I followed the type of work that I liked better and then I aligned it to my career path.  

What does a typical day look like for you?

The activities in my day can be variable. For instance, this morning, I trained a student in the molecular techniques. In the afternoon, I worked on a grant proposal, requested a CDC permit to import samples from one of our study sites, and then I worked on a poster for a conference.

What would you say are the best and worst aspects of the job?

The best part is that I work on what I really like (infectious diseases- One Health), and I meet wonderful colleagues. The worst part is that to get funding for research projects requires an extensive amount of writing and a low grant-obtaining rate. 

What are the main skills you need to be a...?

Mostly patience, perseverance, resilience, problem solving, good communication skills, and being open minded.

What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?

A common misconception is that things get done fast. You have to remember that the logistics of planning and executing a study takes time.

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?

I would recommend searching for a job that you like and being patient while learning it. If that type of job fulfills your needs, then you should pursue it. However, if the job is not satisfying, you can always change your career path. Veterinary medicine offers a wide variety of activities and opportunities. You need to explore them and find which one suits you best.    

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