Since 2008, the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence, has used the graduate-level Career Development Program to promote workforce development into public service or academia. Jada Thompson, Ph.D., a 2015 Program fellow, is now building upon previous research and experience gained through the Program with a post-doctoral fellowship at Kansas State University (KSU) in Manhattan, Kansas.
Thompson’s one-year fellowship will focus on an econometric analysis of highly pathogenic avian influenza and will be split between the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) in Fort Collins, Colorado and KSU.
Thompson said she is excited to divide her time between both places – “The work remains the same, but I am exposed to both institutions and different researchers.”
Thompson credits the Program with not only solidifying her interest in researching the economic impact of animal diseases, but also providing her with security and validation that allowed her to focus on her research.
“The Career Development Program gave me the freedom to not worry about where my funding would come from, but instead focus on how to shape my research and how to best prepare for my future career,” Thompson said. “As part of a larger mission, I had the feeling of being part of something grander than my corner of the world and that my research did matter.”
In 2015, Thompson completed the Program’s required 10-week internship in a homeland security field through an internship at the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services’ Centers for Epidemiological and Animal Health in Fort Collins, Colorado. During her internship, she had the opportunity to research the economic and epidemiological analyses of Newcastle disease and avian influenza in commercial poultry operations—a project she said increased her knowledge of animal diseases, how to respond to them and analyze their impacts.
“The internship was a great learning tool,” Thompson said. “It gave me real world experience and allowed me to ‘try out’ a career path without having to commit to it. I learned a lot of useful skills transferable to wherever I may go in my future.”
After completing her fellowship, Thompson says she hopes to continue her research and have the opportunity to teach about the economic impact of animal diseases.
“I hope to have a research and teaching appointment to not only continue health analyses but also inspire another set of people to think about animal health economics or, more broadly, agricultural economics in general,” Thompson said.
Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in poultry science and agricultural business with a minor in global agriculture, and a Master of Science in agricultural economics—both from the University of Arkansas. She also holds an International Master of Rural Development from IMRD European Consortium. Thompson worked towards a Ph.D. while completing her fellowship in the Program, and recently received her doctorate in agricultural economics from CSU.
IIAD’s Career Development Program was established in 2008 to provide graduate-level fellowships that promote workforce development into public and private practice and academia. Emphasis is placed on building future workforce capacity in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics that also support the DHS mission space in transboundary, emerging and zoonotic disease defense. The program is made possible through funding awarded to the Institute through the DHS Office of University Programs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Needs Fellowship.