Texas A&M entomology student chosen as fellow for National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Scientist Training Program

Pohlenz cultures cells in the lab for titering virus. (Photo by graduate student Sarah O’Leary.)

Tyler Pohlenz cultures cells in the lab for titering virus. (Photo by graduate student Sarah O’Leary.)

COLLEGE STATION — Tyler Pohlenz, a Texas A&M University doctoral student, has been selected as a fellow for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Scientist Training Program, or APHIS-NSTP, starting the 2019 fall semester.

Pohlenz’s doctorate concentrates on arboviruses, such as Zika, and other important pathogens.

“With the move of the USDA’s Animal Disease Center from Plum Island, New York, to Kansas, USDA needs to staff the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, NBAF,” said Kevin Myles, Ph.D., professor of entomology and Pohlenz’s major advisor. “The fellowship looks for young people who are studying for their master’s or doctorate in the areas of interest to the type of work that will be going on in the facility.”

The APHIS-NBAF Scientist Training Program was created to identify highly qualified candidates to fill key roles in the new facility.

“One major aspect of this is that USDA will connect me with someone who is currently working at the facility, and they will act as a mentor,” Pohlenz said. “We will have biannual meetings where they will connect me with other scientists in the field and high containment laboratories. So it will give me a chance to network with people in the field as well as research funds to help me continue my Ph.D. research.”

According to APHIS and the fellowship parameters, fellows will receive full tuition and supplementary support to complete their degree program in target laboratory-based fields of study including microbiology, virology, molecular biology, diagnostics, bioinformatics, etc. Fellows are also required to maintain a 3.25 GPA.

Myles said Pohlenz’s research is focused on arboviruses, such as Zika and other important pathogens, and how they are transmitted by mosquitoes. His research is focused on those viruses and how they are transmitted and spread during periods of epidemic activity.

“There are some pathogens that are very important as far as the livestock industry, and these pathogens can be very devastating to livestock if you have an epidemic,” Myles said. “But because of that, it is important that we study these types of pathogens in order to come up with therapeutic treatments, etc. to help protect our livestock industry.”

Fellows will be required to fulfill a tiered service commitment following completion of the program, based on the number of years of funding received.

“I will be spending at least five years in the foreign animal disease diagnostic lab, but after that, I plan to stick around the government sector,” Pohlenz said.

“He has proven to be one of the top graduate students that I have had during my 13 years of running the laboratory,” Myles said. “He is just very passionate about the questions he’s investigating. He has good hands and is very skilled in the laboratory and is very intelligent. He has been an excellent graduate student.”

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