Katherine A. Delaveris
“Don’t be afraid to talk about your passion for homeland security or genetic engineering of a pathogen for vaccine development; whatever it may be.”
Program of Study at Georgetown University: M.S. in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases (Student from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016)
Tell us about yourself! What is your academic/professional background and what led you to pursue graduate school in your field?:
I studied International Politics at New York University for my undergrad, but also had a strong interest in microbiology and immunology. I initially struggled with trying to select a conventional career path that would focus on only one of my vocational interests and could not bring myself sacrifice one for the other. This led me to search for masters programs that combined the two fields. Wanting to first strengthen my background in the biological sciences, I returned to school for a postbaccalaureate in Immunology at Harvard University with the ambition of combining the two fields. My interest in immunology was in global security against infectious diseases, with a focus on security against the deliberate release of pathogens to spread mass disease.
How did you hear about us and why did you decide to study at Georgetown University?:
I want to be formally trained in security against biological and chemical weapons following my foundational education in international politics and immunology. This led me to search for graduate programs in biodefense, which are almost non-existent across the country. Georgetown University was the only institute that offered a program specific to my interest in defense against biological and chemical warfare. Georgetown’s M.S. in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases was the only graduate program that I applied to, and I worked over the course of two years to prepare for tentative work here.
What advice would you give prospective students who are looking to apply to your program?:
Pursuing graduate work is quite different from an undergraduate degree, in that these students have found a particular path of interest that they want to hone in on and become a specialist in. Masters programs and Ph.D. programs tend to be very specific, and generally, students apply based on an interest in particular faculty or coursework. This program itself is incredibly unique, and most likely, there is something just as unique that is motivating your interest in this field.
- Be honest. Don’t be afraid to talk about your passion for homeland security or genetic engineering of a pathogen for vaccine development; whatever it may be. Chances are, that very passion within you that makes this program the best fit for you is the reason that the faculty will find you to be the best fit for this program.
- Be proactive. Things are not apt to fall in your lap. Email professors, go to seminars, speak with alumni. You will learn more about the program, along with your specific interests, which will better prepare you for a compelling academic statement in your application.
- Be yourself. If you have no experience (nor interest) in the biochemistry of viruses but have worked on developing a policy for tighter national security, say so. The Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program is not looking for carbon copies of the same applicant. The most beneficial thing to any field is having a diverse population of individuals that bring different strengths to the table. So highlight what makes you talented, and forget about trying to write what you think others might want to hear.