Written by Bolutife Fakoya, Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program alumna
During my third year of college, I struggled with the prospect of what I wanted to do after I graduated. I knew that I was interested in basic molecular biology research but I also recognized that I wanted to structure my career around existing and emerging problems in public health.
Coming from Nigeria, I have first-hand experiences with the socio-cultural impacts of infectious diseases in communities I call home and I know that similar situations persist worldwide. I began my search for suitable opportunities and through the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program, I joined the Stallings Lab at Washington University in St. Louis and spent the summer working on a project characterizing critical elements of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell cycle.
My summer in the lab of Dr. Christina Stallings was truly transformational and there is so much that I recognize that I can do, that I am doing, because of my time in St. Louis. In the lab I learned so many essential experimental techniques and tackled difficult research questions with the unending guidance and support from Dr. Stallings, Dr. Katherine Mann (the graduate student I worked with), and the rest of the lab group.
From the summer symposium series I learnt about critical research into neglected tropical diseases, One Health Initiatives, and social determinants of health outcomes. I recall having those talks fundamentally shape what I wanted to explore after I graduated. And with my fellow researchers I learnt how to structure a research talk, discuss findings, and collaborate towards a broader goal. By the end of my summer I was sad to leave St. Louis, but grateful for my time in the Stallings Lab, and excited for the future I wanted to build with this experience in mind.
I think of the global effort against tuberculosis and other infectious diseases as an evolutionary arms race that is being fought in research labs, field clinics, hospitals, and primary schools where children around the world are being equipped with essential prevention skills. I began my PhD program at Harvard University a few weeks ago with the hope of contributing to this global effort against infectious disease. My time with the Institute for Public Health started me on my journey into public health and I am excited to continue this into the future.