Micaella Jorge is a research scientist focused on diagnostic development. She tells us how she is currently working on a diagnostic device that could differentiate between bacterial and viral infections, and the positive impact it could have in the future.
During my undergraduate studies at the University of San Diego, I had an opportunity to do field research analyzing the water quality of different water sources in Uganda. Due to established relationships that my professor had built, our team was able to collaborate with the local community, which gave me an insight into the impact research can have. My team and I were walking through a village when a Ugandan man stopped our group and asked what we were doing. When he discovered we were analyzing different water sources, he asked if we could test a water well he had on his property. We analyzed a sample and our translator disseminated the results back to him. That unique research experience inspired me to join a laboratory where I could see the real-world applications of research done at the bench. That’s why I decided to join Dr David Wright’s diagnostics focused laboratory at the Vanderbilt University to focus on diagnostic development. Currently, I’m working on developing a diagnostic device that could differentiate between bacterial and viral infections at the point-of-care, which would drastically reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and promote antibiotic stewardship.
Underrepresented groups in science strive me to keep going. As a Latina and first generation college (and Ph.D.) student, I want to serve as a positive role model for those that can't currently see themselves in this role. To anyone wanting to pursue a research career: practice resiliency in the face of challenges and failures in the lab. You will experience hurdles when researching something new, but if you want to achieve the Next Great Impossible, it’s going to require innovation and tenacity. I myself have had many days with unexpected and disappointing results right when I thought I was about to determine a solution to a problem. I still have those days today and I try to overcome each one by keeping a growth mindset, taking a step back from the experiment to gain clarity and trying new things.
Going forward, I would love to see at-home diagnostic tests for different conditions becoming the norm. With the telemedicine space growing and people becoming familiar with the COVID antigen tests, I believe accurate and easy-to-use diagnostic tools are the future. I think an understanding of how these tests work would lead to less confusion and misinformation, and thus increase the trust between the community and public health officials.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve the Next Great Impossible?
A:A positive mindset that is always looking forward.