Piece written by Ciara Higham, PhD researcher at EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Fluid Dynamics.
In July and August 2022 I visited the US as part of my PhD and was awarded LIFD seedcorn funding to assist with the associated costs. I spent 3 weeks at the University of Arizona visiting Dr Amanda Wilson (Assistant Professor in Public Health). Whilst visiting I networked with students and professors at the University who were based in various departments including public health, environmental engineering, microbiology, epidemiology, communications and public policy. I gained valuable insight and direction into my own work and I really appreciated the different perspectives and guidance given to me by Dr Wilson, Prof. Kelly Reynolds and Prof. Charles P. Gerba. I collaborated with both Dr A. Wilson and Dr S. Abney on a research paper assessing the risk associated with surface transmission of various pathogens in a single occupancy toilet. I also worked alongside Dr J. Sexton taking surface samples in public toilets to assess the effectiveness of a cleaning product, learning new experimental techniques. A highlight of my stay was visiting the Biosphere 2.
Following on from this I participated in a Quantitative Microbial Risk Assesment (QMRA) workshop at Michigan State University. This was an interdisciplinary program providing training and mentoring in microbial health risk analysis and involved working on a group project. My group (myself and six other students) focused on the risk posed by coccidiodes, a fungus that causes Valley Fever in the US, and we were led by Dr Kerry Hamilton (Arizona State University) and Prof. Charles Haas (Drexel University). We are currently working on a paper presenting the findings of our work.
I developed lasting professional relationships in both the University of Arizona and Michigan State University building a network of contacts in public health, environmental engineering, microbiology, epidemiology, communications and public policy. Travelling alone and networking with experts was initially extremely daunting to me but the month long trip has definitely improved my confidence and belief in my abilities.