TRAINING GRANTS

2019-2020 TRAINING GRANT RECIPIENTS

“Identification of biochemical signatures of pyrethroid resistance in invasive Aedes aegypti”

Erin “Taylor” Kelly, B.S., Trainee

Erin “Taylor” Kelly is a Ph.D. student in vector biology, interested in vector metabolism, reproduction, and mechanisms of insecticide resistance. Kelly completed her Bachelor of Science in biology and minor in chemistry at Santa Clara University. Kelly’s long-term goal is to either pursue work as a professor with an appointment that combines teaching and research or work as a vector control biologist at the state or county level.

"The PacVec training grant has been an excellent opportunity. The grant provided support for me to apply emerging techniques to questions of vector biology, and has allowed me to learn from and collaborate with vector control groups in California. I've really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of this community and to learn about the work and perspectives of other stakeholders."

Geoffrey Attardo, Ph.D., PI, University of California, Davis

The Attardo lab centers around the reproductive biology of insect vectors of human disease. The primary subjects of his work have been mosquitoes and tsetse flies. Attardo has studied how female mosquitoes regulate gene expression in response to blood feeding. He also studies the reproductive biology of tsetse flies, unique insects that lactate and give birth to live young. This work covers multiple areas of reproduction in tsetse including nutrition; analysis of genes associated with reproduction; the role symbiotic bacteria play in tsetse reproduction; and the interactions between insect vectors and the parasites they vector.

“Transcriptomic profiles of Ixodes pacificus under acaricide treatment and host blood meal“  

Kacie Ring, M.S., Trainee

Kacie Ring is a Ph.D. student in ecology, evolution, and marine sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She completed her master’s degree in microbiology at San Francisco State University in August 2020. Ring plans to continue her research on tick-borne pathogens, expanding on the research funded by PacVec. Moving forward, Ring hopes to either stay in academia or pursue a career in public health.

"The training grant from PacVec has substantially improved my academic experience. The grant paid for my tuition, provided me with a stipend, and funded my research. Prior to the grant, I was working part-time outside of the university to pay for my rent in one of the most expensive cities to live in, in the US. While the monetary gain improved my financial security and mental health, it also allowed me to devote more time to research. Through the grant, I was able to create a life-long friendship and collaboration with Angie Nakano and staff at San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control. The PacVec grant allowed me to pursue my research interests, invoked collaboration, and ultimately enhanced my success allowing me to continue on to a Ph.D."

Andrea Swei, Ph.D., PI, San Francisco State University

Research in the Swei Lab employs interdisciplinary approaches to understand the factors that determine the distribution and prevalence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. Swei’s research focuses on several different tick-borne disease systems such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Borrelia miyamotoi and employ ecological theory to examine the role of disturbance, habitat fragmentation, and biodiversity on tick-borne disease ecology and public health risk.

“Identification of social determinants of health associated with Aedes aegypti prevalence across Maricopa County

Whitney Holeva-Eklund, B.S., Trainee

Whitney Holeva-Eklund is a Ph.D. student in interdisciplinary health at Northern Arizona University. Holeva-Eklund’s work in Dr. Crystal Hepp’s lab focused on understanding the relationship between health equity and the invasive mosquito vector Aedes aegypti in Maricopa County, Arizona. She hopes that these projects will directly inform mosquito control practices in Maricopa County, Arizona by creating a better understanding of mosquito habitat that will allow vector control units to employ mosquito control efforts in an extremely targeted fashion that conserves resources and decreases the risks associated with overuse of pesticides. Eklund just defended her prospectus in October 2020. She plans to move forward with her dissertation work in the next year and a half and defend her dissertation by the spring of 2022. After completing her Ph.D., She hopes to apply and get accepted into the Epidemic Intelligence Service Fellowship through CDC.

"Receiving a training grant from PacVec has allowed me the time I needed to focus on the work that I will complete for my dissertation. I have been able to learn a lot about mosquito vectors, mosquito-borne diseases, and statistical methods as I have completed this project."

Crystal Hepp, Ph.D., PI, Northern Arizona University

Dr. Crystal Hepp is an assistant professor in the Informatics and Computing Program at Northern Arizona University. Hepp is interested in microbe evolution (RNA viruses), especially in zoonotic emerging infectious diseases.

“Larval ecology of invasive Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in southern California“  

Xiaoming Chloe Wang, Ph.D., M.Sc., Trainee

Xiaoming Chloe Wang is a postdoctoral fellow in vector biology at the University of California, Irvine. In the long-term, Wang would like to establish a career as a leading faculty researcher in vector biology at a major research university, a vector biologist at a state health department, or local mosquito and vector control district.

"This is my first grant in my life; I learnt a lot personally and professionally. This is very essential for my future career development. I had the opportunity to work with the local Mosquito and Vector Control Districts, and benefited greatly from in-depth interaction with them and from field based ecological studies of mosquitoes and other vectors. I also got the chance to meet colleagues in the same field. From this experience, I deeply appreciate the value and contribution of vector biologists to society through research and community-based intervention for the prevention and control of vectors and vector-borne diseases."

Guiyun Yan, Ph.D., PI, University of California, Irvine

The Yan Lab examines epidemiology of vector-borne diseases and vector biology. For malaria, the research addresses the ecological mechanisms of malaria epidemics in high-elevation areas in Africa, impact of environmental modification on malaria epidemiology and transmission, and new vector control strategies. For Asian malaria, the research focuses on the mechanisms of heterogeneous malaria transmission in the border area of the Greater Mekong Region and development of integrated malaria control strategies to aid the malaria elimination efforts in the region.

“Wolbachia infections in mosquitoes of Merced County”

Ryan Jacob Torres, B.S., Trainee

Ryan Jacob Torres is a public health Ph.D. student at the University of California, Merced. His research interests are in vector-ecology, biological control, population genetics, and infectious disease. Torres is currently preparing for qualifying exams to transition to the candidacy phase of his Ph.D. program. Moving forward, he intends to continue developing collaborations with vector biology research, with the goal of pursuing a tenure-track position within academia.

"Receiving a training grant from PacVec has made a tremendous impact on my life. As a graduate student with the intention of pursuing academia, the training grant provided me with many opportunities for personal development. Most importantly, it allowed me the opportunity to give my first conference presentation at the 2020 MVCAC meeting in San Diego, and another at the PacVec annual meeting in Riverside. At both of these meetings I was able to build upon my network and learn through valuable conversations with my peers and other established professionals. Ultimately, the PacVec training grant awarded me invaluable insight into the research process that I can now build upon and share."

Andrea Joyce, Ph.D., M.S., PI, University of California, Merced

Dr. Andrea Joyce is an assistant professor and an entomologist. Her research interests include vector ecology, insect behavior, insect population genetics, biological control and integrated pest management for insects of agricultural and public health importance. Current research includes vector ecology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Her vector ecology research focuses on mosquitoes, and includes identification of vector species and strains, understanding the habitat they thrive in (ecology), and investigating factors associated with vector-borne disease.

“Northern California physician assessment of knowledge, attitudes, and practices for Lyme disease in a low-endemic state“

Sharon Ichiko Brummitt, MPH, Trainee

Sharon Ichiko Brummitt is a Ph.D. student in epidemiology at the University of California, Davis. In the short-term, she aims to complete her Ph.D. career at UC Davis with a dissertation topic that may have immediate implications in public health, specifically taking an analytical and serological approach to the understanding of human Lyme disease in California. In the long-term, she hopes to obtain a position (e.g. federal or state level) where she can use her epidemiological knowledge and skills to develop programs or directly impact public health knowledge and practice.

“Receiving the PacVec training grant has provided me an opportunity to carry out research in an under-studied area of healthcare that being the knowledge, attitude and practice of Lyme disease in a low incident state in the U.S. such as California. The proposed study results could help tailor educational interventions and evaluate potential improvements to diagnostic testing. The main objective of this study was to describe clinicians' knowledge and practices regarding diagnostic testing for Lyme disease in a low endemic state. I believe my research project would provide educational messaging to physicians in California on the testing and treatment of Lyme disease."

Woutrina Smith, Ph.D., MPVM, DVM, PI, University of California, Davis

Dr. Smith’s research program uses One Health approaches to investigate the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of zoonotic pathogens locally in California as well as internationally at multiple project sites in Africa and Asia. As a molecular epidemiologist working at the interfaces of humans, animals, and their shared environments, waterborne fecal pathogens as well as milk- and airborne transmitted zoonotic agents are of particular interest when considering individual and population health issues.

“Next-generation-sequencing-based means for mosquito surveillance and detection of mosquito-borne pathogens

Aurélie Kapusta, Ph.D., Trainee

Aurélie Kapusta is a bioinformatics scientist at IDbyDNA (80%) who also works for the University of Utah Pediatrics Infectious Disease department (20%). Kapusta’s goals are to improve her skills in bioinformatics and knowledge in infectious diseases diagnosis (with metagenomics). She hopes to keep working at IDbyDNA as a bioinformatics scientist, and keep being involved in research collaborations.

"The collaboration with the SLC Mosquito Abatement District started when I was still a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah, and I have been really enjoying it: I have learned so much! Moreover this work is consolidating fruitful professional relationships, playing on the strengths of industry, research lab (Mark Yandell lab at the University of Utah), and SLCMAD, which may not be that strong without the PacVec grant."

Ary Faraji, Ph.D., PI, The University of Utah

Ary Faraji is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Utah and an executive director at Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District (SLCMAD).