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Allysn Austin ’09

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Research Assistant III, Infectious Disease Department

University of Cincinnati, MS in Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, and Immunology

Pine Manor College, Biology Major

Stephen T. Badin High School, Hamilton, OH

Contribute to research and ensure protection of human research subjects

“At Pine Manor, all of the professors and administrators were passionate about the college and its students. My experience opened my eyes to all the opportunities that were available, and I was able to explore many of the options in the broad field of science.”

Life after Graduation

When I graduated from Pine Manor, I was hired as a Laboratory Support Specialist in the Clinical Lab at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. This is the main clinical lab at the hospital which services the hospital, all of its outpatient sites, and a majority of pediatric offices in the tri-state (OH, KY, IN) area. I was incredibly busy, all day every day, triaging questions and solving laboratory problems. I think I was taking about 20 phone calls per hour. After about one year, I applied and was accepted to the MS program in Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Immunology. After my first semester, I transferred to the Clinical Microbiology lab within the hospital. My responsibilities included processing all samples submitted for micro testing, reporting critical results as needed and answering test questions. The move was incredibly beneficial! Most of my classes were microbiology or infectious disease based – I already understood the clinical side because of my position. Many of my professors worked at Children’s Hospital, and were great resources to have along the way.

It took me a little bit longer to finish the Master’s program, 2.5 years instead of 1, because I worked full time. Although incredibly stressful (especially when I was working third shift at the hospital, grabbing a coffee, and going to a 9am class two times a week!) it was amazing to be able to have that extra experience in the workplace while finishing up my degree. Also, graduating without any loans was pretty awesome!!

Currently, I am a Research Assistant III in the Infectious Disease Department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. My main responsibilities include conducting assigned laboratory experiments, maintaining accurate and thorough records, and ensuring that sensitive subject information remains confidential. In addition, I organize data for review by my supervisor, participate in annual competencies to fulfill professional requirements, write protocols for review by my supervisor and participate in weekly administrative meetings. Our focus is vaccine development for infectious diseases, usually targeting populations in underdeveloped countries. Our work is about 40% clinical research, 60% contracted private research, and sometimes a little basic research is thrown in. We each have our own “specialties”, with mine being microbiology. I also consult for virology projects. My main assignment right now is a government-funded Shigella vaccine trial. I’m excited to have been able to see the progression of this project from beginning to end! Other research projects I have worked on include: a project for treating patients in the NICU for MRSA/MSSA (Methicillin resistant/sensitive Staph aureus bacteria), multiple rotavirus vaccine trials for the US and underdeveloped countries, a Phase I cholera vaccine trial and a US based surveillance study for rotavirus in young children.

I have recently begun to inquire about IRB (Internal Review Board) positions available in the Cincinnati area. IRBs monitor and ensure the privacy and integrity of data from human subject research trials, an important aspect of research that wasn’t always the standard. Working in a research lab, I have quickly learned the reasons why review boards exist and federal regulations are so strict and tightly monitored. There are a number of examples of what research was like before the discussion of human integrity began! Career wise, I would like to move away from bench work, and move towards the administrative side of clinical research. I find all aspects of the research study process interesting, but I want to broaden my scope and gain more experience with government regulations. My career goal is to have a complete understanding of a human research trial, from the grant submissions through data review.

How PMC Helped Me

I had a great support system of knowledgeable professors who fortified the foundation necessary for my interests in health care and biomedical science careers. Each was able to answer any questions I had along the way, or point me in the right direction. Each professor had an “open door policy”, so getting advice or clarification was easy and, in most cases, instant. The small class size provided each student with the opportunity to develop a relationship with each professor, directly. At other colleges or universities the classes are so large, you get lost and you leave each class with too many questions that go unanswered. Also, the location in Boston provides each student in the Biology Program with an abundance of internship options to help further his/her career. I loved the area surrounding the campus.

I did my senior internship at Natick Pediatrics. This internship inspired me, and prompted me to explore new avenues for helping others, especially those in our own community. I traveled to Natick Pediatrics twice a week and shadowed Dr. Lindeman as he saw patients throughout the day. One day a week, he made home visits to see newborn or very ill patients. Making home visits was just one example of how Dr. Lindeman strived to accommodate his patients. He learned Portuguese when he opened Natick Pediatrics, because that was the primary language for a majority of his patients and their families! This made me realize that there is so much we can do to make our patients or research subjects feel more comfortable.