Research Assistant, University of Washington Department of Global Health

Shawn sitting in the laboratory.

What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in global health?  

I was born in Florida, moved to Seattle when I was 8 and have been in love with the Pacific Northwest ever since. I attended high school here and then undergrad at Seattle University. I studied Cell and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry. After graduating Seattle U, I found a job in Dr. Stephen Polyak’s lab studying Arenaviridae through pseudovirus systems. When the COVID-19 pandemic began we switched gears to studying SARS-CoV-2, and I began to work in the BSL-3 facility at UW SLU. After about three years with Dr. Polyak I decided I was very invested in the field and began applying for graduate school. 

Why did you decide to attend the UW for graduate school?  

I have to admit I was a little biased because of Dr. Polyak as he is a faculty member of the program and had talked very highly of it. I was very interested in the more global outlook of the program because I wanted to focus my research on pathogens with broad global impacts, so as to help make a difference in the most people’s lives. As I mentioned before, I already liked Seattle very much, and UW is a fantastic institution in which to learn and research. 

What are your research interests? 

I am interested mainly in virology, looking at viral pathogens with broad impacts. Emerging pathogens that affect low- and middle-income countries that may not have the most resources dedicated to researching pathogens are of particular interest to me. 

What are you enjoying most about your graduate program? 

I am enjoying the fast-paced nature of the work, as well as the varied challenges classes and lab have provided for me. The other students have been wonderful, and the faculty are nothing but helpful.  

How did your award influence your decision to attend UW? 

I had already intended to accept, and finding out about the reward made it that much easier!