Postbac Spotlight—The Training Experience in the Rockies

Luke Kendall, Postbac in the Biology of Vector-Borne Viruses Section, Laboratory of Virology, Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML)

Credit: NIAID

Interview with Luke Kendall, Postbac in the Biology of Vector-Borne Viruses Section, Laboratory of Virology, Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML).

Tell me about your research and how it contributes to the mission of the lab.

I work in the Biology of Vector-Borne Viruses Section of the Laboratory of Virology, where I study the role of male ticks in tickborne flavivirus transmission, as they are generally a neglected topic of study. My research involves dissecting out the salivary glands of the tick and then infecting those organs with a flavivirus, which is something I never pictured myself doing when I was an undergrad. Using this system, I study tick transcripts that may influence flavivirus replication and therefore transmission with the goal of identifying a means of inhibiting replication. The lab is just as much a vector biology lab as it is a virology lab, and I am fascinated with how the two worlds interact.                

What do you enjoy most about being a postbac?

I enjoy the dramatic shift from university life to devoting my energy entirely to research. Full-time research is a great change of pace for me. I like the freedom I have in the lab to pursue research questions that I am interested in. This may vary from other postbac positions/labs, but my experience has given me a significant amount of research freedom.

What was the most surprising or unique aspect of working at RML? 

The most surprising thing about RML is the caliber of research that occurs here. You may not think that a relatively small campus in a rural town would perform world-class work. However, the relaxed environment doesn’t come at the cost of the quality of research.

You visited the Maryland campus for the Postbac Poster Day; what was this experience like?

During my visit to main campus, it was surreal to see so many young scientists, especially considering we rarely have more than a dozen postbacs at RML. Having been born in Montana has conditioned me to prefer smaller populations; however, being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded individuals was refreshing to say the least.

How has your postbac experience prepared you for your future career? What are your future career plans?

My research experience has given me an enormous leg-up for pursuing a Ph.D. I can’t imagine a higher quality of mentorship in a research setting. When I began my postbac, I was 100 percent on the Ph.D. track. After attending countless career counseling sessions, I realized I ultimately want to practice patent law. With this goal in mind, I plan to pursue a J.D. following my Ph.D.

What would you say to someone considering a postbac at RML?

I would tell them to stop considering and go for it. RML is an amazing community, and many principal investigators make it their focus to provide mentorship for postbacs so that we get the most out of the experience, whether it is through collaboration on a project or allowing us to design experiments.

Not to mention, Hamilton is a beautiful area to live. There aren’t many opportunities for night-life experiences, but if you are outdoorsy in any capacity then Hamilton is a great option.

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