Working at the Illinois Department of Public Health Division of Laboratories has given me insight into what a future career in the field of public health could look like. While I began my internship believing I would pursue a Master’s degree in epidemiology, I have come to realize that I am more interested in the actual science side of things. I have been able to see the process that occurs when there is an outbreak, such as an E. coli outbreak or the Zika virus outbreak. What fascinates me most is the testing that is being done and how it affects the population of Illinois directly.
This summer, there was an outbreak of E. coli that affected several people. Stool samples from these patients were sent to the IDPH lab and tested, where it was found that they were infected with E. coli. Through this testing, the lab was able to determine the restaurant that was the source of the outbreak and close it down until the problem could be resolved. This was important because this particular restaurant was scheduled to appear at the Taste of Chicago. If it had not been shut down, hundreds or thousands of people could have been infected.
My internship has shown me that in order to do this testing, I should go to Graduate school and get a Master’s degree in something like Microbiology or Molecular Biology rather than in epidemiology.