I quit my job this month and am starting my PhD in Epidemiology.
This has been a long time coming
My main motivation has always been to work on healthcare/public health problems and using computational techniques to achieve that, but it took me awhile to find the right avenue.
I started off as a computational biologist in 2015. After two years of developing antibody modeling software, I decided to study population-level health and started a masters degree in epidemiology. When I graduated and started working for CDC in 2019, I was still unsure if I could have a career in infectious disease epidemiology.
I liked the idea of using infectious disease models to influence policy, but I wasn’t sure how much that was valued in the US. A professor in grad school mentioned that infectious disease models are commonly used in Europe for decision-making, so I thought my career would lead me there. But when the COVID-19 pandemic started, I quickly saw the scope of using infectious disease models to affect policy in the US.
Once I knew that I could have a fulfilling career in epidemiology, I still hesitated to pursue a PhD because it requires so much self-direction. I wanted be 100% sure that I could develop a research agenda on my own. What gave me the confidence to move forward was feeling like I understood the gaps in the literature well enough. And that took awhile - I was working for 3 years, and most of that time during the pandemic.
I now know how to come up with useful research questions and what I’ll need to learn in my PhD to address them. Listing some interests here to see how much they will change over the next few years:
- Racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and medical conditions that exacerbate infectious disease outcomes
- Social networks, contact data, and bias in mobility data
- Resource and cost analyses
- Model optimization
I’m very excited for this next chapter in my career (happily in Phase 1). And I’ll be using this website to facilitate my learning during this process.
Image from: How to Avoid the Valley of Despair