Arielle Potter earned her M.S. in infectious disease and global health from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2019. A medical technologist, she works on Quest Diagnostics’ COVID-19 team in the Molecular Biology Department, performing SARS-CoV-2 rRT-PCR.
Cummings School News asked Potter more about why she chose to pursue this degree at Tufts and how she’s applying what she learned in her work.
Why were you interested in earning an M.S. in infectious disease and global health?
After graduating with a B.S. in microbiology, I worked for some time as a preparatory technician in a hospital microbiology lab. There, I processed patient specimens for pathogens, primarily by performing PCR or bacterial/fungal culturing techniques.
However, I knew that I wanted to specialize further in infectious disease, so I started looking into graduate school and discovered that Tufts offered a M.S. in infectious disease and global health. The curriculum looked exciting, and I was particularly interested in the intersection of infectious disease research and the community focus of global health.
What do you do on the COVID-19 team at Quest Diagnostics?
Generally, I set up the PCR after other members of the team aliquot patient specimens and extract the viral RNA. Following amplification, I analyze the graphs and Ct values for each patient to determine if they are positive for COVID-19.
It's a chaotic time to work in diagnostics, but I have found it to be thoroughly fulfilling and exciting. There's nowhere I'd rather be in my career at this moment.
How are you using what you learned at Tufts in your career?
This program is a deep well of resources—including faculty and guest speakers who are highly diverse in both background and expertise—which allowed me to gain a better understanding of the opportunities available to me. I met with a number of our faculty members outside class to discuss their careers, which was an invaluable experience for deciding which avenue to pursue.
The program also refined my public speaking skills, which has been beneficial during interviews as well as giving formal presentations in a work setting. Additionally, the molecular biology coursework helped prepare me to be on the COVID-19 team by teaching me about rRT-PCR, including how to analyze amplification graphs and what a Ct value is.
I came away from the program with a much deeper understanding of the different paths my career could take and with a greater degree of self-confidence, and I feel excited and prepared for my future.