One-on-One: Johannetsy (JoJo) Avillan

Johannetsy (JoJo) Avillan

Johannetsy is a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Doug Call in the Allen School.

Jojo Avillan in the Lab
PhD candidate Johannetsy Avillan examining a bacterial culture in her lab.

What area of research is covered by your PhD thesis?

My research focuses on the fitness costs and benefits of different antimicrobial-resistance genes (beta-lactamases and carbapenamases), with the goal of assessing the risk that these resistance genes can become established in populations by successfully “competing” with other “lower-level” resistance traits that are already present in the population.

Why did you choose to join the IID graduate program at WSU?

The IID program is a comprehensive and interdisciplinary program with multicultural graduate students. This caught my attention right away. Additionally, this program is pretty flexible, which provides more room for the students to drive their own research. Personally, I wanted a new environment since I came from Atlanta, GA and the environment there tends to be hectic and stressful. When I visited the first time this campus, I was impressed with the landscape and structure. The students and staff made me feel welcomed and the professors are passionate about research and mentoring, providing the tools needed for the success of each of their students.

Where were you working/studying before your started your PhD?

After I completed my BS degree in microbiology program at University of Puerto Rico, I worked for four years as a Lead Medical Technician at VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, FL, and then as a Microbiologist and Spanish Spokesperson at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for another 4 years.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

When I am not in the lab, I am taking care of my kids, cooking for friends, or exploring the Pacific Northwest. I like to do road trips and love to take pictures, actually, lots of pictures, especially of landscapes.

What advice would you give students about to embark on a graduate degree?

Graduate school is definitely very challenging. As everything is life, it has its ups and downs but it also has a lot of frustrations and it can feel overwhelming (especially if you have a family) but it is achievable and completely worth it. Willingness is very important, as well as, patience and determination. It is important to understand that there will be times of glory and times of troubleshooting and potential failure but it’s all part of this journey. Remember to keep up the good and hard work because it will pay off in the long run.

How do you expect to use your graduate degree?

I would like to go back to work for the federal government, in an agency like CDC or FDA and lead an interdisciplinary research team that potentially focuses in antimicrobial resistance.

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