How She Got There: Kellie Ann Jurado, Virologist & L’Oréal US Women in Science Fellow

Name: Kellie Ann Jurado 
Age: 30
Job Title and Description: Postdoctoral Scientist at Yale Medical School, Virologist, and Immunobiologist 
College Name/Major: Undergrad: New Mexico State University (Biology and Microbiology), PhD: Harvard University (Virology)
Instagram Handle: @latina_scientist

As one of the five recipients of the 2017 L'Oréal Women in Science Fellowship, Kellie has received $60k in grant money to develop her research on the ZIKA virus. Since 2003, L'Oréal US has been committed to providing support and a platform for women pursuing postdoctoral work in S.T.E.M. fields.

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day? 

KJ: I am a scientist that studies how the immune system interacts with viral infections. Currently, I am working on understanding how Zika virus causes damage to the brain and how the immune system responds to Zika virus infection within the brain.

What is the best part of your job? 

KJ: I really enjoy the few minutes post getting an important finding and discovery. They come far and few between, but for these few minutes (because I have a hard time keeping any exciting data to myself), I hold immense power-- I know something that no one in this world knows! This feeling, this high, is what gets me past the 90 percent experimental/hypothesis failure rate associated with basic science.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it? 

KJ: I am still somewhat in training, but my first experience within a research science laboratory was not until I reached undergrad. I asked one of my professor if I could volunteer within her laboratory and the rest is history.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable? 

KJ: “Set a goal so big that you cannot achieve it until you grow into the person who can.” I am always trying to channel continued growth and find this saying to be very in line with how I approach, set and fulfill personal goals.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it? 

KJ:  I once found myself within a very unsupportive environment. Instead of looking for a way to leave, I decided to fulfill my entire commitment of contract. I did not realize until later when I spoke with past mentors, that I should have removed myself much sooner. I learned three important lessons from this experience: 1) do not blame bad fits on your ability and 2) seek advice from past mentors early 3) never settle for a bad fit.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far? 

KJ: This year as a L'Oréal For Women In Science, I was filmed by a professional crew for two days straight! This experience was one I had never anticipated and was a very surreal moment in my career! 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone? 

KJ: When determining whether I am interested in working with another, I tend to look for a display of effort. Whether this is evident in a cover letter that the applicant has done their research on the position/work or whether it is shown in their resume by an effort to gain experience within the field (even if on a more surface-level volunteer mechanism).  I think a truly passionate individual will put in the extra work to demonstrate commitment and these truly devoted are the individuals I am interested in working amidst.  

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations? 

KJ: To plan for the future but to embrace the present. I think it is very easy within academia to constantly work toward the next big goal––first it's getting your bachelor degree then preparing for grad school than trying to finish quickly so you can train as a postdoc, to then earn professorship, and after, to obtain tenure! During this constant climb, it is easy to forget to enjoy the process.

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

KJ: Again, as mentioned above, I tend to look for a display of effort to work within the field. 

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