A Passion for Public Health

1 August 2014

_X5O1264_F.jpgBrendan Fowl ’14  •  Kingsville, MD

INTERNSHIP: Research with the Albuquerque Lab at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health—Summer 2013

SCHOLARSHIP FUND: The Woodside Endowed Fund for Career Exploration, established by Sam Woodside ’75 and his wife, Meg, provides scholarships for students pursuing unpaid internships with domestic government or nonprofit organizations

Why were you attracted to this particular internship?

I first became passionate about working with public health in the developing world while I was in Kenya with an off-campus program. This internship gave me the opportunity to see some of the hard science and research behind public health.

What does the lab do?

It researches the efficacy of treatment compounds to counteract various kinds of poisonings—organic agents that cause harmful effects to the body. My summer with them was focused mainly on testing treatments for organophosphate poisoning. Phosphate-containing fertilizers are banned in the United States, but not in much of the developing world.

Did you have a favorite aspect of your job?

I was especially interested in the behavioral analysis of animal subjects. I analyzed videos of guinea pigs in a maze or box, for example, comparing how their behavior deviated depending on whether they were exposed to the agent, unexposed, or exposed followed by treatment.

How will this experience help you in your future career?

The best part was getting to know people in all different roles: research assistants who were recent graduates, PhD students, secondary investigators, PhDs working fulltime in the lab, chemists—and, of course, the two principal investigators running it all, whose names appear on the papers about this work. Those contacts will be beneficial for me in the future.

Did the scholarship make a difference for you?

Absolutely. The funding made it all possible. It may not seem like much, but $2,000 is a lot for a college student who is looking at how to afford unpaid and low-paying internships.

What’s next?

I plan to work in a research lab for a year and apply to medical school. My ultimate goal is to work in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infections like tuberculosis.