Dana Brown recently joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a vector biologist. Prior to joining INHS, Dana spent four years assisting with microbiological research in laboratories focused on virology, immunology, and cancer biology. She completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees in fisheries and wildlife science and public health at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
She recently answered some questions about her work.
What is your background before coming to work at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS)?
While my educational background is in ecology, zoonotic disease, and public health, I’ve been fortunate to have many different professional experiences. From a retail associate, a kennel tech, and a line cook to a health educator, a clerical assistant, and a research technician, each job has given me a wide variety of skills that have helped me develop into a well-rounded individual.
What are you looking forward to the most in your new role at INHS?
I am most excited to work with ticks and mosquitoes again! Conducting molecular surveillance of vector-borne diseases has been a dream of mine ever since the first time I dissected a tick almost a decade ago.
How old were you when you first became interested in science? What sparked your interest?
I can remember getting my first toy microscope around ten years old and using it to get a closer look at EVERYTHING in the world around me. My interest in science began pretty young, and was likely instigated by growing up in a rural area and having parents that both worked in STEM.
Who or what drew you to study vector biology?
While I was working on my MPH, I recognized that I was specifically developing an interest in tick-borne diseases and randomly emailed the parasitologist associated with MU’s Veterinary Pathobiology Program. This fateful move led to years of thoughtful mentorship from Dr. R.W. Stich. He taught me everything I know and love about ticks!
What are common misconceptions about your career? OR What question do you get asked most frequently about your career or the subject you study?
When I shared that I was joining INHS, my friends and associates all asked if we were going to clone dinosaurs any time soon, a la Jurassic Park. Fortunately, the answer to that question is no.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Sometimes my demographic identity fosters incorrect assumptions about my level of interest or knowledge in the subject material, which can be personally frustrating. Everybody likes to be seen as valid. I feel that this challenge is overcome by perseverance and assertive ownership of skills and interests.
What do you wish more people understood about science or being a scientist?
Research will forever make science a dynamic field! There are no such things as static conclusions, and our knowledge about any given subject will evolve as more data are collected and compiled.
What advice would you give to future scientists?
There will be roadblock(s) that appear insurmountable in your journey. Remember that there is always more than one path to the finish line, and all paths are valid.