A Rose Among Thorns: One Scholar Shares Her Drive to Pursue Global Health Problems and Disease Control

Jessica van Loben Sels is completing her DPhil in Pathology under the mentorship of Dr. Kim Green at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease and Pr. Ian Goodfellow at the University of Cambridge. Her work has led to the development of several serological assays to monitor duration and breadth of protectivity in patient serum antibodies against human norovirus. She deployed one assay in the field with the help of collaborator Pr. Stephen Baker at the University of Oxford Tropical Disease Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she screened infants for protective immunity against a variety of norovirus strains. Her project has elucidated immunological patterns which can inform multivalent vaccine design. Her work as also led to the identification of potentially broadly protective immunoglobulins which can help map important epitopes on the virus and serve as treatment for immunocompromised individuals who are suffering from chronic norovirus infections if the antibodies show therapeutic potential. 
 
She is set to submit her thesis in August 2020. Immediately following submission, she will begin working towards her Masters in Public Health at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Her work throughout graduate school has been focused on understanding immunity and disease transmission within vulnerable populations in low- to middle-income countries (i.e. children in Vietnam). Having gained months of international field experience working with various peoples and governments to accomplish scientific goals, she decided she wanted to make a career out of field epidemiology. Upon the COVID-19 outbreak, she has worked with the NIH on the contact tracing team and gained valuable insight into the many facets of public health that respond to disease outbreaks. It is for this reason she decided to pick the concentration of Global Health Epidemiology and Disease Control for her MPH studies. Following the completion of the two-year program, she aspires to be trained by the CDC in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) fellowship program and attain a career in aiding state and federal governments respond to public health crises.