Born in the Eastern European province of Transylvania (known as the birthplace of Count Dracula), microbiologist Dana Perkins was raised in the former communist country of Romania and humorously describes herself as an “American by choice and vampire by birth.” She chose microbiology as a field of study to understand what makes germs tick and how we can treat the diseases they cause.
Dana’s love for microbiology has its roots in her childhood. “My mother was a nurse, so I spent a lot of time doing my homework in her medical office while waiting for her to finish her duties each day,” says Dana. “While waiting for Mom to finish her shift, I got to see a lot of the patient cases that came through, including terrible traumas and chronic diseases. But I was especially impacted by the infectious diseases I saw, and my mother would explain the cases to me just like I was a medical student.”
So what made Dr. Perkins switch “sides” and focus on protecting germs from people rather than people from germs? As Senior Science Advisor with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and a (recently promoted) Major with the U.S. Army Reserve Europe, 7th Civil Support Command, Dana works to keep microorganisms that can be engineered for lethal purposes or even synthesized chemically from scratch out of the wrong hands. Historical biological weapons programs pursued by countries such as the former Soviet Union as well as the anthrax attacks by mail of 2001 highlight the ever present and clear danger of biological threats and challenges they may pose to our national security and our ability to respond effectively to protect public health.
How do you think we can encourage more students to choose microbiology/biosecurity as a career path?
Read more about Dana and her work in microbiology and national security read here.