Postbac Spotlight—Women in Science, Beyond the Bench in Big Sky

Interview with Myndi Holbrook, a postbac in the Virus Ecology Section in the Laboratory of Virology at the NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana

Myndi Holbrook is a postbac in the Virus Ecology Section in the Laboratory of Virology at the NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana. Myndi is also part of the leadership team of a non-profit organization aimed at making science open, inclusive, and accessible.

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

The Virus Ecology Section (VE) is led by Vincent Munster, Ph.D., and focuses on the rise of emerging viral diseases. The main objective of our group is to identify drivers of disease outbreaks by studying how emerging viral pathogens cross the species barrier. My project aims to look at the natural hosts for these emerging viruses. We are specifically looking at bats in Jordan, who may be hosting viruses that have the potential to cause disease in humans. Being better informed as to where these viruses reside is one factor to better predict when and where future outbreaks may occur.

What do you enjoy most about being a postbac at RML?

My favorite part about being a postbac at RML is the diverse group of scientists from all around the world who are now together in a small Montana town. Hamilton is a great town with a ton of wildlife and friendly people. It’s the best of both worlds: cutting-edge science and the slow-paced lifestyle of Montana.

What was most surprising/unique/interesting about working at NIH?

The most surprising thing about working at NIH is how helpful everyone is to each other, both in the lab and outside. The atmosphere is extremely collaborative, which helps push a lot of good science out into the field. 

Tell me how and why you got involved with the non-profit group, and what types of activities are involved? Can you tell us about your success with events in Missoula and plans in Hamilton?

I got involved when I was attending Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman, MT. When I moved to Hamilton, I figured it was the perfect place to start a new “pod.” RML alone employs ~400 people, we also have a GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) facility, high school/college teachers, and environmental scientists. The types of activities involved are endless. For example, we plan to organize Science Trivia nights to get the general public and scientists together, happy hours to get scientists talking to one another, and outreach activities with local youth. The Hamilton Pod had a successful Science Trivia Night in Missoula and we have already scheduled our next trivia night.

Do you think being involved in a group or organization can be beneficial to trainees? Why?

Getting involved with a group or organization is extremely beneficial to trainees! It’s a great way to network with potential PIs, employers, or collaborators. Being involved with a scientific-based group is also a great way to stay updated on science happening in different fields of research.

What are your future plans after your postbac at RML? How has your overall experience at NIAID/RML influenced your decision?

I’m extremely happy doing benchwork and being part of the team. My experience with the non-profit group has shown me that there are several paths to becoming a successful scientist. Having a support group and a place to ask career-based questions has demonstrated that there are several different career paths that can lead to the same success.  My future plans may or may not include graduate school, but they definitely include a lot more science.

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