How a CDC Internship Set One Student’s Sights on Entomology
By Carolyn Bernhardt
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series sharing stories from participants in Public Health Entomology for All, an internship and fellowship program created through a partnership between the Entomological Society of America and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read part two.
Tess Brown, one of the six inaugural interns in the Public Health Entomology for All program, calls the experience “a big eye opener.”
A senior at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Brown was initially interested in the intersection of urban forestry and meteorology. But, she says, the Public Health Entomology for All (PHEFA) program, launched last year by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offered her hands-on experience that helped refine her career trajectory. “This internship set my goals to entomology,” she says.
Brown and her cohort underwent a rigorous application process and spent the summer of 2022 doing 10-week internships at the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) in Fort Collins, Colorado; the DVBD Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch in Atlanta, Georgia; or the CDC Dengue Branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through an intensive orientation and consistent mentorship from CDC scientists, the interns in the program gained key exposure to various corners of entomology.
Brown was based in Fort Collins but felt a tight-knit community among all the far-flung interns. “It’s a nice little family we gained,” she says. She spent her 10 weeks studying mosquitoes. “In Louisiana, we have a lot of mosquitoes, but this was my first hands-on experience with them,” she says. “My favorite part was the insectary, actually going in and harvesting mosquito eggs, raising them, making sure they are fed properly, and, once they get into the adult stage, blood-feeding them. … It was a lot of knowledge that I gained really quickly.”
The internship offered Brown not only a chance to learn but also a newfound appreciation for mosquitoes. “People don’t see how important mosquitoes are to us,” she says. “Yes, they do bite, but they serve a purpose. Everything in this world has a purpose.”
Fort Collins is quite different from Baton Rouge, though, and Brown says she loved it. “I would love to go back. It was like a culture shock for me, being somewhere so open with not many trees. Fort Collins is huge, but seeing how close-knit the community is … I really liked it. Everyone out there was really nice.”
Veronica Manrique, Ph.D., assistant professor in urban forestry, entomology, and pathology and Brown’s advisor at Southern University, told many entomology students at Southern about the program and encouraged them to apply. She learned about the internship through her work on the ESA Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “It’s an amazing experience for students to go to this big institution and work side by side with experts,” she says.
Manrique says Brown was the first of her students to get her application in order. “When she came back and talked about being passionate about mosquitoes … I was expecting a good experience, but I didn’t know it would change her goals completely,” Manrique says. “I am so happy they started this internship, and I hope it continues for a long time.”
As a part of the program, Brown is headed to the Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia in Vancouver in November. “It will be a great place to learn and network with other peers and professionals in entomology,” Manrique says.
But the program already has had a lasting impact on Brown. “I was thinking about graduate school before the program but was unsure what to focus on,” she says. “Now, I am set on entomology.”
2023 internship and fellowship applications open in late 2022
Entomological Society of America and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention