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Internship Spotlight: Kaitlyn Maurais MPH ’24 (Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases)

October 03, 2023

Seasonal Research Assistant, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), New Haven; Funding: paid by CAES

What is your career goal?

My career goal is to find work at the intersection of infectious disease, community health, ethics, and vector disease studies. I have a passion for supporting human and animal population health interventions through research, programming, and education.

What were your duties/responsibilities during your internship?

My internship was focused on the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus in Connecticut mosquito populations. It involved daily mosquito collections from resting boxes at several field sites across the state, as well as blood meal analysis testing to attribute mosquito vectors to local hosts, predominantly avian species.

What did you take away from your experience as an intern? What was the value of the internship to you?

Since the internship encompassed field and lab work, I found it satisfying to see a research process from start to finish of a study. I am currently transitioning from fieldwork into analytical methods, as well as developing a novel antigen assay to assess mosquito immunology. I look forward to continuing to innovate the scientific process for a locally affecting mosquito pathogen, and communicating those outcomes to the public, as well as being able to expand my skills in applied research.

What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? What was the most challenging aspect? The most surprising aspect?

One of the most rewarding parts of the internship experience was having the chance to converse with scientists of different specialties at the station and hearing about their career progressions. It was helpful being part of academic conversations with experts in the field, as well as receiving personal advice about my future career interests and potential research pursuits. One of the most challenging aspects of the research process is adapting to change and being flexible with the project as it evolves. Team members were phased in and out of the project over the course of the summer, which presented the need to adjust accordingly and be prepared to delegate tasks. One of the most surprising aspects of the internship was that I discovered several unwanted ticks on myself from field studies. There was a learning curve in adopting preventative public health methods, and educating new field teammates on the risks and importance of protection.

How did your first year at YSPH prepare you for this internship?

My first year at YSPH provided me with a vital background in infectious diseases and the importance of adequate public health response measures. I appreciate my introduction to coding in multiple languages and public health modeling, as I believe these will be useful skills in the analysis phase of the project.

What would you say to a student who’s considering a similar internship?

I would encourage peers to network throughout their first year of MPH studies and communicate with potential researchers as early as possible. Making personal connections proved to be very valuable for me in securing an internship opportunity. I also highly encourage in-person work if it is available because it allows for greater networking within the project team and the organization.

Submitted by Sabrina Lacerda Naia dos Santos on October 03, 2023