A Delayed Follow Up

leon-espiraMy apologies for not having this post up earlier, especially as it is the follow up to my first post.  Life, in the form of a dislocated shoulder, kind of got in the way.  Anyway, with the apologies out of the way, let me tell you guys about the 2 events that took place at the School of Public Health on October 25th.

The first was the MAC-EPID symposium. The Centre for Molecular and Clinical Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases (MAC-EPID) organizes two symposia every year and I got to attend the Friday session of this year’s last symposium.  The symposia typically last 2 days with three to four speakers, and are structured to allow students a maximum exposure to speakers, and are generally a great way to mingle and meet people.  There were 4 speakers, and as much as I would like to tell you about all of them, I will settle for a brief summary of just one of them: Dr. Andrea Graham and her take on worms and the immune system.  Dr. Graham works with Soay Sheep, a breed of “domestic” sheep found on the uninhabited Island of Soay, part of the St. Kilda Archipelago off Scotland.  These sheep were brought to Soay about 4000 years ago and have remained isolated since.  So not only do they represent one of the earliest domestications of sheep, but by virtue of their isolation and lack of predators, provide a great study population to look at the effects of gut nematode load on population size.  Dr. Graham is particularly interested in how different sheep respond to the nematodes and if there is a cost to being highly resistant to nematode infection.  Maybe it is better to just learn to live with the parasites than to expend resources fighting them.  As nematodes were part of our resident macrobiota as we emerged as a species and still affect over 2 billion people, understanding our interaction with them and its systemic effects is a crucial research question.  Dr. Graham is trying do this using the Soay sheep.  For those interested in learning about our “wormy world” as Dr. Graham puts it, here is a link to a great and very aptly named site: http://www.thiswormyworld.org/.

The second event of the day – believe me, it was quite an exciting day – was the 2013-2014 Epidemiology Poster Session where second year MPH students in the Department of Epidemiology get to present the results of their summer internship projects.  This is not only a great way for us first years to learn more about epidemiological research but also a great way to find more about how internships work.  The range of posters was pretty diverse, from work on the implementation of low cost sterilization techniques in Rwandan hospitals to tracking down the cause of a Norovirus outbreak at a Tough Mudder event; food crop planting dynamics and malaria rates in Malawi; and the effects on deforestation on public health in Ecuador to name just a few.  And I just have to mention in a bit more detail the poster that I found most interesting – and examination of sovereign bond issues in Africa as a way to fund healthcare.  What I loved about the poster is that the topic was an illustration of how broad public health practice and epidemiology can be.  Before seeing it, I would never have thought about the effects of quantitative easing in the developed world may be having on public health in Africa.  I would love for you guys to actually check out the posters for yourselves, because in the space of this blog, I certainly cannot do justice to all the great research that went into the posters.  Here is the link http://www.sph.umich.edu/epid/events_honors/2013_poster_session.html.  Excellent work by the second years!

As a take home, I thought I should just condense everything I think I learnt about internships from the session:

  • Don’t focus only on the traditional when thinking of internship projects; think about what you find most interesting.
  • Network and don’t be afraid to reach out to people as soon as you can.  You never know what conversation or meeting could lead to a great internship.
  • And lastly, enjoy your internship and be proud of the work that you are doing.  It could be the start of your career as an epidemiologist.

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