The Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease is proud to offer paid research fellowships each summer to students and emerging professionals interested in the field of vector-borne disease.

For approximately twelve weeks each summer, MCE-VBD fellows work on projects at partner institutions in five Midwestern states, conducting research and/or surveillance related to tick and mosquito-borne disease under the supervision of academic and public health experts.

For more details about the MCE-VBD Research Fellowship program, please see our information and application guide

What projects do MCE-VBD fellows work on?

Fellows engage in a wide variety of research projects. Some fellows engage in surveillance and control efforts related to mosquitoes and/or ticks. Others conduct field research or lab work (e.g., efforts to detect new and emerging pathogens in field-collected ticks or mosquitoes), or work related to data (ex: efforts to extract and process data on human cases of vector-borne disease from the archives of state public health agencies, or working with data for modeling or GIS display purposes). In general, applicants should be prepared to work under potentially difficult outdoor conditions.  You will need to apply for the fellowship without exact knowledge of what you might do. You will certainly learn more details about potential work projects as part of the interview process, before being asked to commit to a fellowship.

How many fellowship spots are there each year?

MCE-VBD expects to offer between 12 and 14 research fellowships each year from 2017 to 2021. 

Who is eligible to be a fellow?

Fellows do not need be students.  Fellows may be undergraduate students, graduate students (MS, MPH, PhD, etc.), or professional students (e.g., MD or DVM), but they may also complete their work in a time period between or after the completion of any of those degrees. 

What are we looking for in fellowship candidates?

Being interested in related fields is critical -- those include but are not limited to entomology, epidemiology, public health in general, ecology, environmental health and environmental science, medicine, life science communication, geographic information systems, and biostatistics.  Having some specific background related to vector-borne disease (e.g., a course in parasitology or entomology) is useful but not required.  The day-to-day work of vector-borne disease prevention and control is often not glamorous, so something that is required, at least for field-based positions, is the ability and willingness to do careful work and maintain a positive attitude even when doing repetitive tasks under difficult conditions such as extreme heat, mud, biting mosquitoes.  If you can describe experiences you have that demonstrate your knowledge of and ability to work under such conditions, that strengthens your application considerably.  

How much are research fellows paid?

MCE-VBD Research Fellows receive a stipend. In 2018, a fellow working 40 hours a week for 12 weeks will typically receive a total stipend of $5280. Some fellows may receive a larger stipend due to exceptional academic backgrounds or professional experience. Fellows receive stipends in two equal payments: the first half will be paid at the start of the fellowship term, and the other half will be paid at the end of the fellowship term, pending adequate progress on fellowship work.

Apply to be a MCE-VBD Research Fellow

Applications for Summer 2019 MCE-VBD Research Fellowships are now being accepted as of November 1st, 2018.

Interested applicants may apply via this link. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, in the order they are received.

There is no firm deadline for applications, but candidates who apply by January 2019 are more likely to be selected than those who apply later.  Exact start and end dates in summer 2019 will be negotiable for most positions, but in general fellows should expect to start in May or early June. 

As part of your application, you will need to submit:

  • A 200-400 word statement explaining your interest in and preparedness for a MCE-VBD Research Fellowship
  • A PDF copy of your resume
  • Notes regarding any conversations you have already had with MCE-VBD partners regarding a potential fellowship

2018 MCE-VBD Research Fellows

Sulagna Chakraborty

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

I am a second year PhD student in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. My concentration is in Epidemiology and my research focuses on social, economic and environmental factors associated with vector borne diseases, particularly Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) in India.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for the MCE-VBD. My tasks ranged from acquiring data on ticks and tick borne disease cases in Illinois and help build a database of vector borne diseases for the five states in the Midwest region. I also organized existing information from tick surveillance systems, developed relationships with prospective stakeholders, and assisted in the preliminary setup of the I-TICK Program. In addition, I took a basic tick identification module at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last summer and spent significant field hours dragging for ticks for projects through the MCE-VBD.

I believe that the skills and knowledge that I will acquire as a Research Fellow for the MCE-VBD will help shape my profile as a future infectious disease epidemiologist and researcher. In addition, the opportunity to work with a variety of people involved in different aspects of vector borne diseases will expose me to different perspectives and grow my network. I am looking forward to working with Dr. Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz and get further hands on training in this exciting field. 

Bailey Spiegelberg

University of Wisconsin-Madison

I am a current undergraduate student at UW-Madison, majoring in genetics with a certificate in Global Health. I grew up in St. Lucia, where mosquito borne viruses are very prevalent. I have personally experienced dengue twice, and have witnessed the effects of zika and chikungunya. I have a passion for understanding the mechanisms behind issues in a population and working towards a solution that doesn't just fix the symptoms, but rather addresses the cause. I am interested in helping find a solution to the astronomical burden of disease that mosquito borne viruses cause.

For a future career, I am interesting in researching and studying infectious diseases and ways to help reduce their burden on a population. With a major in genetics, I am especially interested in creating and using methods such as genetically modified vectors and genomic personalized medicine to help eradicate disease.

This fellowship will give me an amazing opportunity to gain experience in the field to see what working with vector borne disease would really be like. Also being able to complete the MCE-VBD's Certificate in Public Health Entomology will be a huge asset to my personal knowledge as well as to a job in the Public Health field.

Monique Olson

University of Wisconsin-Madison

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in puzzles and finding ways to help people. As I got older I have found that epidemiology is a course of study well suited for these passions and became enthralled by global public health. Since then I have been taking global health classes at UW Madison and traveled to Ecuador to study water borne diseases where I learned about vector borne disease for the first time. Being in Ecuador helped me realize the importance of understanding epidemiology to the worlds overall health.

I am currently attending UW-Madison, working towards a genetic major and a certificate in Global Health. I am not sure whether I want to pursue an MD or an MPH. I think my work will end up centering around global health and epidemiology regardless of the career I pursue because of my passion for these fields.

Ellen Meis

Minnesota Department of Health

I am currently a junior at Iowa State University majoring in Biology and Environmental Science and minoring in Emerging Global Disease. After graduation, I plan to complete at least a master's degree in infectious disease epidemiology or global/environmental health. My eventual goal is to work as an epidemiologist either in research or for a health institution.

Last summer, I spent six weeks in the U.S. Virgin Islands creating educational materials on Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue for use in an 8th grade health class on St. John. Last fall, I presented the poster for this project at the Iowa One Health Conference held by the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa. In spring of 2018, I worked as an undergraduate researcher under Dr. Josh Beck in the ISU Department of Infectious Disease and Parasitology investigating ways to optimize CRISPRi gene regulation as a research tool for the malaria parasite.

Jacob Johnson

Iowa State University

I have always been drawn towards the area of human health, and my time at Iowa State has provided me ample opportunity to learn about disease. I initially developed an interest in the study of disease through a pathology course. Uncovering the pathology of a disease is an incredibly fascinating process, and it acts as a powerful tool for disease prevention and treatment. Disease-vectoring species were integral to many pathologies. Last semester I took a graduate course, molecular immunology, which offered an incredibly deep survey into how human and animal immune systems operate at the molecular level. Molecular immunology and biochemistry diversified my perspectives on disease. Those courses highlight the complexity of disease and host interactions, while showing how much we still have to learn regarding those complexities.

I graduated from Iowa State University in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. I have spent the past three years working at the Iowa State Pesticide Toxicology lab developing tools to control insect populations. I have significant experience working with mosquitoes, bed bugs, and spider mites. I have performed studies on multiple detoxification enzyme systems found in mosquitoes. These projects often focus on the issues of population control and pesticide resistance. The methods we develop to control vector populations have worldwide benefits to human health.

This fellowship is an excellent fit for my future plans because it aligns precisely with my interests in the field of entomology. The classes I have completed and my work in the lab has provided me with a variety of perspectives and experiences in biological fields. I already know that I enjoy the process of conducting scientific research, based on my time working as a lab assistant. I also know that human health, disease, and cellular biology are among the topics most fascinating to me. I see this fellowship as the perfect opportunity to broaden my experience in these areas. Biology, as a field, contains seemingly limitless opportunities in terms of what one can do. This fellowship will be invaluable in helping me narrow my interests, while providing an enriching experience that I may be able to apply in my future work.

Lauren Stiffler

Michigan State University/Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

I am currently studying at Michigan State University to earn a degree in zoology and a minor in entomology. I find mosquitoes to be quite fascinating because they are quite small organisms, yet they make a significant impact on many differences ecosystems around the world. They are resilient organisms that can survive in many different climates which makes them one some of the deadliest organisms due to all of the different diseases they carry. I strive to know more about the diseases that they carry and how humans can work to help those affected.

For the past two summers I have worked in a biology lab at Saginaw County Mosquito Control where we are able to monitor mosquito-borne diseases. Being involved in the MCE-VBD Research Fellowship will allow me to broaden my knowledge in this area of study.

When I graduate from MSU, I would like to conduct research and this fellowship will allow me to gain new skills to use in my future in addition to helping scientists with their research. 

Mitchell Kirsch

University of Wisconsin-Madison

I am attending University of Wisconsin- Madison with the intention to complete undergraduate degrees in Biology and Zoology. I studied abroad in Ecuador on a program involving biology, ecology, and conservation, gaining valuable skills in various research methods. I returned and took courses in immunology, biochemistry, global health, and parasitology, adding certificates of Global Health and Environmental Studies, as they fit my interests and are correlated with my past, current, and future endeavors.

I have worked with doctors Ajay Sethi and Rob Striker on an HIV project involving 336 patients and more than 10,500 data points. My role in our lab is to create charts and graphs, presenting data using Excel and STATA.

My future studies involve attending graduate school to pursue a master's degree in Epidemiology or One Health. The emerging field of One Health has peaked my curiosity as it combines my interests of vector-borne diseases, the health of human and animal populations, and the health of the planet. Career-wise, I can see myself working for the CDC, the National Wildlife Health Center, a state government, or even a university like UW- Madison.

Shelly Gleason

Michigan State University

I recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a Master’s degree in Epidemiology, having previously graduated from the University of Michigan with a dual Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Science. I am eager to expand my experience in the field of epidemiology and to engage in an opportunity that combines both my undergraduate and graduate education, such as researching vector-borne pathogens through field surveillance.      

This past spring, I worked at the Georgia Department of Public Health, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Section, where I performed field interviews and data analysis for National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) data.

Prior to studying epidemiology, I engaged in research opportunities at the University of Michigan, where I focused on primarily water quality. For three years, I    worked under the supervision of Dr. John Lehman, an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor, and analyzed the accuracy of three allometric models used to estimate zooplankton biomass in the Great Lakes. I truly enjoyed the field component of this research position and pursued other opportunities for field work, such as conducting research at the University of Michigan Biological Station and the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Karina Burmeister

University of Wisconsin-Madison

I am a recent UW-Madison Zoology graduate, and I currently volunteer/intern at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. This fellowship will allow me to use my current disease knowledge to gain new skills in field and lab studies. I am specifically interested in vector-borne diseases because they are a challenge and involve complex layers. The connectedness between hosts, human and animal, and the environment fascinates me. Lyme disease is one I am very interested in because of the number of cases I know of personally in Wisconsin, including my father's case. I would love to further understand this disease, as well as others, to educate those around me.

I have also recently had the opportunity to collaborate on a research project with Katie Richgels, Emily Lankau, and Kim Miller from NWHC and David Drake from the UW-Madison Forest and Wildlife Ecology Department. This research project is using NWHC and partner data to look at the spatial ecology of West Nile Virus and make a risk model of how the disease will continue to spread.

My intention is to attend graduate school to further study wildlife disease. This fellowship will narrow my disease interests and give me additional field and lab experience to prepare for graduate school.

Melissa Farquhar

University of Wisconsin-Madison

I am a DVM candidate at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.  As an MCE-VBD fellow, I am hoping to broaden my knowledge of mosquito-borne illnesses. Last summer I was able to delve into the research, mainly focusing on heartworm disease transmission in canids.  I would like to be able to apply the knowledge I gained last summer into a broader aspect of MCE-VBD work.

As a veterinary medical student, my knowledge base is mainly with disease transmission among animals. I am hoping to incorporate the interface between humans and animals, focusing on how that relates to vector transmission.      

I am planning on completing my Master of Public Health degree this coming fall and am hoping to complete my capstone project with MCE-VBD. I am interested in how the public interacts with vector borne diseases.

David Posawatz

Michigan State University

I am a Junior Physiology major (Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor) in Michigan State University’s Lyman Briggs College of Natural Science. For the past few years, I have been preparing for medical school, and have recently begun to expand my options for post-graduate pursuit, considering Master’s degrees in Public Health and/or Biotechnology.

The main consistencies in my aspirations are that I plan to integrate science with the humanities (business, law, and policy) in order to promote human and environmental health and deliver novel solutions for some of the most precarious problems we face in those realms.

The MCE-VBD fellowship intrigues me because it encapsulates the entire process of incurring positive change in the public health realm. I am excited to have the opportunity to be instrumental in field surveillance and data collection, laboratory analysis, and formulation of epidemiological summaries in hopes of determining the best plan of action to combat vector-borne and zoonotic diseases.

Nyssa Van Ness

University of Wisconsin-Madison

No matter where I am, I have this uncanny ability to look up and spot a spider. I just can't help it. It's a product of many free afternoons spent turning over logs and peering up trees to delight in the little residents that live there. Yet I never realized my fascination with insects could have medically relevant application until this past fall. It was then I was introduced to public health entomology through an elective course where I learned the basics of vector borne disease surveillance and its tools. The idea that I could combine the diverse training from my DVM program, including parasitology and epidemiology courses, with my personal interest in entomology was united by the pursuit of promoting public health.Though the elective only scratched the surface of vector surveillance, it left me hungry to learn more about this field and possible career.

I am currently attending the UW-Madison Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Prior to the DVM curriculum, I never realized the incredible interrelation between veterinary and human medicine, but now it is the greatest drive behind my training as a veterinarian. The vector borne diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks are a perfect example of this interrelation, so I want to take this opportunity to explore how focused research lessens the burden of those diseases.

Although field work would be a new experience for me, it is one I am eager to face in all its challenges. At the same time, my previous research experience has left me no stranger to the bench. If there is anything collecting DNA and organizing the data from over 200 herbarium samples of coca plants has taught me, it's an appreciation for careful record keeping that promotes insight into important patterns and endurance. Regardless of the setting, my hope is to hone old skills and develop new ones that will prove valuable to me as a veterinarian and a public health professional.

Bridget Hulsebosch

Loyola University

I have been working with mosquitoes for almost three years now.  I am majoring in Environmental Science: Public Health at Loyola University Chicago and am very interested in diseases that we as a public are very vulnerable to.  I started working with mosquitoes my freshman year when I worked for the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District and became very interested in something I knew very little about.  Not only have I been studying Environmental Science and the effects that climate change can have on things like Vector-Borne diseases, but this coming Spring semester I will be starting my Public Health courses.  I also worked as a research fellow last summer with the MCEVBD and really enjoyed learning about the different projects that the center was participating in across the Midwest and I really hope to continue our research from last summer this year as well.

Before freshman year, I never thought much about mosquitos in relation to public health.  Now, I hope to continue researching them and different methods of controlling them or preventing the diseases they carry from affecting the public.  I hope to study public health and diseases later in my educational and professional career.

This fellowship lets me participate in research that I want to study in my future career as just an undergraduate student.  I get to learn about other studies that I may never have even considered learning about and meet amazing people that are doing work in the industry that I hope to be a part of one day.  This is an opportunity that I hope to continue, and I get to gain valuable experience, knowledge, and skills that will shape my future education and career and it is work that I greatly enjoy doing.

Jason Hunt

Western Illinois University/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I have five years of experience volunteering for mosquito surveillance in Illinois. My duties have included setting up traps in locations that provide information that best serves the community, coordinating with local public health and community officials regarding trap sites and test results, sorting and identifying numerous mosquito species, and analyzing collected Culex mosquitoes for presence of West Nile Virus. For the past three years, I have incorporated this mosquito surveillance into my Ph.D. thesis project. In addition to the Culex collections, I am also conducting surveillance of invasive Aedes mosquitoes and studying the local habitats through the analysis of water chemistry at collection sites.

I believe the MCE-VBD Research Fellowship will allow me to gain more experience in different aspects of vector biology that I will be able to utilize in future vector habitat studies. My long-term goal is to obtain a university faculty position that will allow me to continue my Ph.D. research. This will allow me to share my knowledge and passion for vectors with future students.

2017 MCE-VBD Research Fellows

Susannah Haupt

Ella Gehrke

Bridget Hulsebosch

Joseph Lonchar

Erin McGlynn

Grace Newton

Tom Richards

Mariah Schrack

Matthew Springer

Nicholas Thrun

Alexa Bertz

Alexa is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison double majoring in Biology and Entomology. She has also completed the requirements for the Global Health Certificate, and is planning on attending the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine after graduating.

In the summer of 2017, with the guidance of Dr. Lyric Bartholomay and the late Robin Mittenthal, Alexa began working on a state-wide survey project that aimed to gather more information about the mosquito control and surveillance practices in Wisconsin communities.

As of December 5th 2017, 123 surveys were returned and completed out of the total 1,444 surveys sent out. The results supported our initial hypotheses that private and public organization emphasize different mosquito related activities. The results also suggest that Wisconsin city, county, and state public health officials, in partnership with the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease (MCE-VBD), should create resources and guidance for surveillance and control measures for the many communities that do not have this in place. Alexa recently had the chance to present the survey findings in a regional video conference with other members of the MCE-VBD, midwest public health officials, and representatives from the CDC.

Currently, she is working on completing the requirements for the MCE-VBD’s certificate in Public Health Entomology and is planning on taking the Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Certification Exam later in the spring.

To read more in-depth about the survey and results, click here