Dr. Dana Shaw joined the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018, and today her research in the Department of Veterinary, Microbiology and Pathology investigates the molecular mechanisms that govern all phases of pathogen-vector-host interactions. She obtained her doctorate at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center where she studied host-pathogen interactions of the Lyme disease-causing bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Maryland before heading west to Pullman.
What are your current research interests and what attracted you to that area?
My background training centered on host-pathogen interactions with Borrelia burgdorferi. While I was a graduate student, it became clear the vast majority of what we understand about tick-transmitted disease centers on the vertebrate hosts – which makes sense, since this is where disease symptoms are observed. However, much less is known about the other half of the lifecycle, which occurs within the tick vector. This stood out to me as a significant knowledge gap, especially since there are major difficulties in preventing, diagnosing, and treating tick-borne illnesses in humans and animals. The idea that we could circumvent these difficulties by interfering with tick-pathogen interactions before transmission can even occur was an intriguing research direction to me, and I have been excited about it ever since!
What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your research?
My goal is to advance the field of vector-borne disease by 1) contributing fundamental knowledge about how ticks interact with their vectored pathogens, 2) uncovering novel concepts that dictate the ability of an arthropod vector to harbor and transmit pathogens, and 3) expanding our understanding about non-model organisms such as ticks.
How can your research help or impact people?
Interrupting the cycle of tick-borne disease by interfering with the arthropod vector is an exciting approach to prevention. However, translational applications can only be developed once we understand the fundamental biology behind the issue. I envision our research impacting people by providing foundational knowledge that application-based science can then be built on, which may ultimately lead to product development.
What advice would you give to younger people considering a career in science?
Go for it! There are often misconceptions about what research is really like and what types of academic or personality type requirements there are to be successful in science. From my experience, the most important traits for succeeding in science are curiosity, creativity, and resilience. If you are excited about the unknown and continuously learning, science could be a great career option!
Why did you choose to come to WSU?
WSU is arguably one of the best places to be for researchers in tick-borne disease. We have so many groups that investigate various aspects of tick-borne diseases, ranging from microbiology to immunology to entomology to epidemiology and more. It makes for a stimulating and collaborative environment that makes me excited to go to work!