Jennifer Moffatt - Comfort Zones

Posted by on 22 May 2015 | Comments

So the jet-lag has worn off, and it’s time to get to work. I’ve spent the last week here at the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale University learning new techniques and making lots of new friends. That’s what networking is, right? I’ve also been introduced to several American craft beers, which I have sampled in the name of science. Fermentation is microbiology after all.

But how did I get here? I originally trained at Monash University, where I completed my Bachelor of Science, majoring in molecular microbiology. I then went on to complete my PhD, where I looked at mechanisms of colistin resistance in the nosocomial pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii. I’ve always been fascinated with how bacterial pathogens interact with their host, so in August last year I moved to the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne to join Dr. Hayley Newton’s group. Characterizing the effector proteins of the intracellular pathogen Coxiella burnetii is what gets me excited! It’s been a steep learning curve, but an amazing experience! When I first started, I didn’t have a strong cell biology background. So I was very much outside of my comfort zone. But isn’t that what science is all about? Stepping outside of your comfort zone? It’s about new information, new perspectives and new techniques. Pushing boundaries, and changing paradigms. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be intimidating and scary. But it’s worth it. With time and hard work, you find your way. Of course, then you get comfortable again…

I was fortunate enough to receive the ASM Millis-Colwell award this year, which means I get to spend two weeks here at Yale. So, I’m in a different lab, and I’m back out of my comfort zone! It always amazes me though that microbiology labs around the world are so similar. The shelves here are filled with similar tubes and kit boxes. Incubators, tissue culture hoods, and autoclaves are all hauntingly familiar to the ones back home. It only took a couple of days for me to find my feet and get back to the bench. Although it took me a little longer to work out that American’s pronounce agar as ‘Ah-GAR’! It really goes to show though, that once you’ve trained as a microbiologist in Australia, you can take that training with you anywhere in the world.

It’s hard to believe that I have already been here a week! The 115th ASM General Meeting in New Orleans is only a little over a week away. I’m going to be a little out of my comfort zone, so if you see me around, come say hi! Maybe we could grab a beer? ☺