After Kristine Tran, MS Global Health ’20, graduated this spring, she immediately began working at the Virginia Department of Health on COVID-19 contact tracing. As a case investigator, Tran completed case reports including interviewing people who tested positive and sending relevant information to contact tracers, who in-turn notified those who may have been in contact with infected individuals. Over the summer, she typically worked on 15-20 cases per day and worked on more than 100 cases overall.
This summer, Tran was also awarded a fellowship from the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She moved to Boston to work at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on their coronavirus response during the fellowship. She will be studying the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 through a combination of ELISA assays and other novel antibody characterization platforms. Additionally, she will be helping with developing new diagnostic screening and rapid testing protocols in their BSL-3 lab—which will be even more important as flu season begins.
Tran’s fellowship is for one year and includes a stipend as well as support for professional development, relocation, and attendance at the APHL Annual Meeting. She is also matched with a mentor for the duration of her fellowship.
Tran thinks what helped her stand out in the application process was her background in microbiology and public health. This makes her uniquely qualified to help both with tasks like lab work and data entry and distribution of data to other state labs.
Tran also discussed why she chose to come to George Mason University for her graduate degree. A selling point was the location so close to Washington, D.C., which gave her unprecedented access to state and federal labs.
“My education for what I spent was priceless,” explains Tran. “Mason is a Tier 1 research facility, and I was always impressed with the faculty. They helped me make sure I had my ducks in a row.”
If she had one word to describe her Mason experience, she would say it was “invigorating.” She had a full-time job while attending graduate school, which could be a challenge to balance but was doable due to the structure of graduate classes at Mason. Her studies gave her the chance to pursue a topic of great interest to her as well as allowing her to step outside of her comfort zone.
When the university went fully online in her last semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a seamless transition. She missed not being able to participate in in-person networking events with alumni but appreciated that the Department of Global and Community Health offered virtual networking events.
Tran’s advice for Mason students is, “Get to know your professors early. They’re public health professors for a reason, so talk to them. Learn about their paths and how they got to where they are today.” She mentioned that they can also help with recommendations and leads to potential jobs and fellowships.
She encourages students to apply for fellowships and other opportunities even if they don’t think they would be qualified for them. “Just apply for them. Take chances – you never know what may come out of them.”