The Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Emergency Response Branch 

The Emergency Response Branch (ERB) develops and performs unique laboratory tests to assess chemical exposures during a public health emergency or terrorist event. In a public health emergency, the rapid detection and accurate identification of chemical agents can be crucial for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. However, this rapid response depends heavily on sample logistics which comprises a series of steps to maintain sample integrity (such as sample receiving logistics, accessioning, aliquoting, chain of custody forms, and final distribution to the testing laboratories). The Incident Response Lab (IRL) is the central operating center for biological samples and reference standards within both the ERB and Laboratory Response Network for Chemical Threats (LRN-C).

Battelle Memorial Institute

July 2019 – Present

Originally hired to automate liquid handling to create a high throughput emergency response protocols, things quickly changed pace into an emergency response role. After completing all mandatory trainings and learning branch protocols, a new illness started appearing among e-cigarette users. The lung injury working group, comprising of three branches, began accepting specimen from affected individuals including BAL fluid, blood, urine, plasma, and e-cigarettes. Working quickly to develop analytical methods, we had to prioritize likely culprits due to small sample volumes. After long hours of sample analysis, Vitamin E Acetate was found to be strongly linked with the EVALI outbreak. Used as a thickening agent, Vitamin E Acetate adheres to the lung surfactant and blocks oxygen the oxygen transfer from inhaled air to the body. In short, my role was coordination with state public health labs, sample preparation, coordination between branches and analysts, and creating all appropriate documentation (i.e. chain of custody paperwork).

Shortly after the Lung Injury Response, we transitioned directly into the COVID-19 era. CDC Task Forces operate with the aid of internal volunteers. With both Lung Injury and COVID-19, many of our lab staff volunteer in lengthy rotations to serve as task force responders. Some work as communications and public relations aids while others work in the response environment with state and local health departments. My involvement included programming liquid handlers to aliquot samples for high throughput COVID testing services. Lab operations have slowed, but we currently maintain all response method testing and proficiency testing. Similarly, we still partake in research study activities, such as our work with the NIH and NHANES groups as well as other individual chemical toxin and threat studies.

 

Job Description

  • Complete inventory of all chemical and biological samples, standards, and consumables

  • Coordinate internally and externally to receive and send out all branch shipments

  • Participate in proficiency testing programs to ensure all analytical testing remains accurate

  • Create high throughput laboratory practices by automating liquid handling via robotics software programming

  • Aid ongoing research projects by providing sample preparation and documenting chain of custodies

  • Pass external lab accreditation by coordinating preventative maintenance on all equipment, appropriately documenting all samples and specimens, and ensuring lab protocols and safety are maintained

  • Participate in all emergency responses via laboratory support

  • Use computers, computer-interfaced equipment, robotics or high-technology industrial applications to perform work duties

ORISE Fellowship

May 2018 – August 2018

While an ORISE fellow, I spent the majority of my time programming Hamilton Robotics automated liquid handlers. These are used for high throughout aliquoting in large quantities. I programed them for user input including: sample quantity, desired volume, and specimen matrix as well as original and desired containers. I also programmed them to scan ID barcodes and export them to an excel sheet in order to decrease any human error during record keeping. In a response, lab staff are doing many jobs at once. These liquid handlers allows a user to load the robotics deck, input the desired information, and step away to work on the many other tasks at hand without compromising sample or testing integrity.

Job Description

  • Update outdated software methods for automate liquid handlers to decrease processing time for emergency preparedness protocols