ASTMH Member Spotlight: Jessica E. Taaffe, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, NIAID*
*The views expressed here are the Society member's personal opinions and do not reflect official government policies or opinions.
Why are you an ASTMH member?
ASTMH focuses on global health through basic and clinical research and is committed to the training of scientists in the field. ASTMH membership is unique among scientific societies and allows me to take part in global health and science advocacy.
How can the Society help members like you in the early stages of your career?
Helping us identify and connect with career mentors, especially those seeking nontraditional paths or scientific careers away from the bench. For those seeking to use their PhDs in a different way, we can really use some thoughtful and creative guidance from ASTMH leaders and members.
What challenges do you face as a young, female scientist?
My generation of female scientists has the opportunity to profoundly shape the future of academic science. While some women may not pursue this career path due to family commitments--and I understand those challenges--succeeding in academia can be compatible with having a family. Women in science are now well-positioned to negotiate and successfully pursue the academic careers that allow us to "have it all," just as our male colleagues have always had.
Social media is connecting us in new ways today. Is there still a place for in-person mentoring?
Yes! I am astounded the social media's potential to disseminate information and connect people in different parts of the world. But it definitely has not replaced person-to-person mentorship. Social media cannot equal the value and benefits of direct personal contact and developing real relationships with people in this field.
As someone early in her career and at a difficult time for research funding, what does the future hold for biomedical science?
Our discoveries lead to new vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tools, but these discoveries occur behind the scenes, making the scientis and the scientific process less visible and more vulnerable to funding cuts. To change this, WE need to change: Scientists can and should be public and global health advocates.
How can the public/global health community raise its profile at the highest finding and policy levels?
There is much more that can be done to ensure that our voice is being heard and that our research meets the health needs of so many in the world. Here are four things we can do: 1) Increase our communication with and exposure to the public/global health community; 2) Foster direct interaction with policymakers and international development groups; 3) Publicly advocate for continued funding and support of biomedical research; and 4) Become engaged in public/global health initiatives within our own professional and local communities.