Why did you apply to the REU program?
As a rising senior planning on attending graduate school, any college professor will tell you (or, at least, mine did) that REUs and internships are musts to earning and acquiring a research or teaching assistant position. I knew that, for me, real excitement rests in math, specifically in applied math. At Maryville College, I had the fortune of working with Dr. Maria Siopsis, who, in turn, has worked with NIMBioS on many occasions. She introduced me to the amazing research the organization is doing not only with the mountains, ecosystems, and animals here in East Tennessee, but also the connections NIMBioS has with researchers around the world. As an outdoor enthusiast, taking math and then adding an infectious disease along with some muddy pigs, it was a no brainer for me to apply to the program.
What is the purpose of your research?
In humans, Salmonella is the number one cause of food related deaths. In order to create an appropriate plan of action for the control of this deadly and infectious disease, it is important to understand the ways in which Salmonella enters and persists within the food chain, specifically pork. We are currently developing an epidemiology model to map the transmission through a grower house located on an all-in all-out, intensive pig farm to better understand the factors that favor both the transmission and persistence of Salmonella. If the characteristics and transmission of Salmonella can be modeled, there is the possibility for the reduction of Salmonella in pig farms, in pork production, and eventually, in the food we eat. Also, since Salmonella tends to have strong antimicrobial resistance, once a basic model is constructed, extra characteristics, such as resistance, can be added to aid in eliminating this infectious disease.
Tell us something about your field we would be surprised to know:
So many people say math is boring and tedious, and truthfully, they can be right sometimes. However, I always get excited when I finally solve that particularly troublesome problem. There is a sense of enjoyment and ultimate satisfaction when you’re the only one who can solve the conundrum. I haven't been able to find that type of enjoyment anywhere else.
What were your favorite parts of the REU program?
The learning and the people. Getting the opportunity to learn from professors that are in the top of their fields, and being able to work alongside them is simply amazing. Not only am I spending the summer with these professors, but also with fellow peers who come from very different backgrounds. This aids in lively debate, learning, and friendship. If I learn nothing new this summer, I will at least have made lifelong friends.
What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
It is okay to be right! I know that sounds wrong, but it isn't. If you think you are right, speak up. Don't do useless hours of work when, from the start, you know it isn't going to work. Speak to someone who might know. Your time can be used in wiser ways somewhere else.
Would you recommend our program to others?
I would recommend working for NIMBioS in an instant. This is not just a sole math or a sole biology REU, this program allows for an amazing mixture of the two that is unlike any other REU I have found. I will not only leave here more adept at math, but I will have a sound knowledge of infectious diseases. So my advice is to apply! It never hurts to apply, or at least, to ask questions. NIMBioS is such an amazing organization full of great minds. Don't be intimidated by them. If you have questions then call, email, or visit. I promise someone will help you.