GS: Where are you from?
AB I’m originally from Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, a little town outside of Allentown and about an hour north of Philly. I consider Washington, DC my home, since I moved there for my undergraduate degree and spent about 10 years total living and working in and around the city.
GS: What degree did you/will you receive and when?
AB: I received a BS in Physiology/Neurobiology in 2002 and in 2008, I started working toward my
doctorate in Microbiology.
GS: What is your research?
AB: My research focuses on the role of cryptic epitopes in HIV-1 infection and immune control. I am particularly interested in combining in silico and in vitro approaches to better understand adaptive CD4+ and CD8+T-lymphocyte responses in HIV-1 infected individuals.
GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
AB: The culture of the research environment. UAB has both an outstanding reputation in my primary fields of interest, virology and vaccine development, and a unique scientific culture. My previous experience was that scientists are generally introverted and hesitant to develop relationships. Yet, when speaking about UAB, I often describe the staff and students in my school as social scientists, outgoing and worldly individuals. There is a refreshing culture in the biomedical sciences here that inspires collaboration, fosters productivity, and breeds solidarity. I am proud to be part of this community.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
AB: I was extremely honored to be elected President of the National Institutes of Health Evening Speakers Toastmasters Club. This position allowed me to grow as an orator, mentor, and leader. The people that I’ve met through the Toastmasters network have repeatedly supported me in ways that helped me gain confidence, get an amazing job, and get into graduate school. While I’ve prospered during all of my tenured positions, by far, the Toastmasters organization and members have had the largest impact on my personal and professional development.
My official awards are as follows:
“Toastmaster of the Evening”, NIH Evening Speakers Club, 2008
Competent Communicator Award, NIH Evening Speakers Club, 2007
First Place, Inspirational Speech Club Contest, NIH Evening Speakers Toastmasters Club, 2007
First Place, Humorous Speech Club Contest, NIH Evening Speakers Toastmasters Club, 2006
Award for Excellence in the Workplace, GenVec, Inc., 2006
Certificate of Appreciation, St. Luke’s House, Inc., 2003
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
AB: My efforts to plan and organize a fundraiser for the Birmingham AIDS Outreach organization was an incredibly rewarding and inspiring experience at UAB. With the success and passing of the health care bill, I was motivated to plan a benefit party for Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO), a local non-profit organization that directly provides services to people in the Birmingham area living with HIV/AIDS. Held at Sloss Furnaces, the 1930’s themed party helped increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and the services provided through BAO.
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
AB: My mentors here at UAB have had a tremendous effect on my personal growth and continuing education. Paul Goepfert is my primary mentor. He is not just an insightful thinker and scientist, but a caring doctor, active community advocate, loving father, humble leader, and honest friend. Dr. Goepfert has achieved a delicate balance between having successful professional and private lives and I hope to be as fortunate and elegant in applying the same ethics to my own life. Jamil Saad, one of my rotation advisors, is extraordinarily devoted and taught me an enormous amount about assays and techniques, which led to truly changing my perspective about HIV research in ways that I continue to apply today.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
AB: I think getting a PhD started with wanting to be a good role model for women. In high school, I had a 3.8 GPA, participated in 15 extracurricular activities, held offices in 6 of those groups and was discouraged from applying to any first tier universities by my guidance counselor! She (yes she) told me that as a girl, I was “less likely to get in” and that my application would not be as competitive. Unfortunately, I believed her and missed the opportunity to apply to some great schools. I was lucky enough to leave my hometown to attend the University of Maryland, one of the most culturally diverse schools in the country. The experience gave me extraordinary perspective on my life and the personal faith to pursue any dream. When I decided to apply to graduate school it wasn’t a matter of “if I’ll get my PhD,” just when and where. I will be the first woman in my family to achieve a doctoral degree. The more I learn, the more I am intrigued by the fundamental contrast between viruses’ minimalist geometric forms and genomes given their complex functions and immense power. In particular, I find HIV research rewarding because successful outcomes have such a high potential to impact the quality of life worldwide.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
AB: After graduation, I hope to pursue an MBA in organizational development. I truly love every aspect of vaccine development, from the initial concept to research and design, clinical trials and marketing, and just about everything in between. Ultimately, I would like to return to a product-focused environment in industry, non-profit, or government. Within in the next two decades, I plan to increase my advocacy efforts in educational reform through participation in local and state government. As a vetted navigator of our formal educational system, I am deeply concerned about the future and development of not just advanced disciplines, such as the physical and biological sciences, but jobs at all levels of training. In short, there is disrespect and discrimination toward individuals based on their intelligence, a genetically determined trait that cannot be significantly modified. This attitude undermines our educational system, economic markets, and human beings as a race. With time, I hope to gain more insight and the legislative power to provide a system that more efficiently creates the necessary training for the right people to do the right jobs.
Anne’s advice for other graduate students:
Don’t ever plan to retire. There is a two-fold lesson in this mantra: First, all good artists take a few steps back from time to time; don’t wait until the end. Aside from formal training, the most important thing you can do to improve your work is to periodically take a break from it. Travel. Spend time with your family or friends. Learn something new. The time we use to reflect upon our work and incorporate new experiences enriches our future projects ten-fold. Waste not, want not. We have the amazing opportunity to do anything that interests us. One of my highest aspirations is to love what I do so much that it never feels like work. For this reason, planning for retirement is a dangerous assumption. It suggests that we will either want to stop what we’re doing, live long enough to tire from it, or die in the meantime. Any amount of time spent in seminars, surfing the web, taking night classes, being an apprentice, or working towards a degree is infinitesimal when compared to a lifetime of waking up every day and doing something that you hate. Do what you love now and if you’re not doing what you want, learn everything you need to in order to find it.
For more information regarding Anne’s research interests, check out the article written about her for the UAB Magazine, http://www.uab.edu/uabmagazine/2010/june/causeandeffect, along with her website, http://www.annebet.org/Home.html.