Kizee Etienne

Bioinformatics PhD Program
Research Interests

Currently, my research focuses to the prevention and control of fungal infections by performing research on the molecular epidemiology of fungal infections, novel detection and diagnostic methods, and fungal molecular subtyping. Particularly, implementing whole-genome sequencing projects for several fungal pathogens to aid detection of fungi in human specimens and performing molecular epidemiology studies. This work allows us to incorporate and translate the newest research findings in the biology of human fungal pathogens to public health mycology.

Biography:

As long as I could remember, I aspired to become an Infectious Diseases Medical Doctor; I hoped to become part of Doctors without Borders working in developing countries to improve health. However my experiences during and after undergrad have influenced my choice to pursue a career as a public health laboratory scientist. Wanting to work at the interface of public health and laboratory research, after earning a B.S. in Biology, I pursued a Masters in Public Health program at Emory University, where I had the opportunity to further participate in public health driven activities that contributed ongoing research in the understanding, prevention, control and development of methods of detection/treatment for existing and emerging pathogens that pose a threat to human populations globally. Upon completion of my MPH, I was awarded a grant that afforded me the opportunity to interface with the Bolivian Ministry of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA), Bolivia where I married my epidemiological and laboratory skills to assessed the burden of diarrheal diseases for evaluation to introduce a vaccine against diarrheal. Because of my strong interest in combining laboratory research of infectious disease/microbiology and public health (epidemiology), I applied and was awarded the Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) Fellowship from the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) where I continued to pursue my interests (becoming a public health laboratory scientist) at the CDC. At the CDC Mycotic Disease Branch (MDB), I focus on the molecular epidemiology of fungal infections. I am interested in understanding the natural ecology, biology and epidemiology of pathogenic fungi in their role of large scale community outbreaks. Currently, I work to develop identification and genotyping assays for pathogenic fungi implicated in outbreak situations. My introduction to Bioinformatics and the world of Whole Genome Sequencing was actually a bit serendipitous; a large scale outbreak of a fungus for which no known typing methods existed occurred as a result of a natural disaster in Midwestern US. The current arsenal of genotyping methods for pathogenic fungi was futile against this particular fungus. In collaboration with one of our partners, I experienced a brief introduction into WGS and Bioinformatics that aided us in understanding the molecular biology and epidemiology of this fungus. From this experience, I wanted to whole genome sequence type every potential pathogenic fungus to either improve our current genotyping methods or develop new, robust and rapid genotyping methods that would aid us in quickly controlling future outbreaks of pathogenic fungi or provide further insight in cases where the epidemiology may not provide this. Currently, I am a PH.D. student in Bioinformatics focusing on fungal genomics and metagenomics in Dr. Fredrik Vannberg's lab. Aside from my academic interests, I mostly enjoy cooking/eating, partying, and traveling!