Jennifer Reimche, Ph.D., always felt drawn to a career in STEM. Though she attended a fine arts school with a focus on dance growing up, she was still fascinated by many different areas of science and math and spent time exploring each field.
“I attribute a lot of my interest in STEM to my wonderful science teachers in high school,” said Reimche. “Many were brilliant women, and they were all strong influences for me.”
Reimche’s passion for science ultimately led her to pursue her undergraduate studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she continued to be inspired by strong female role models. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2008, followed by her doctorate in microbiology and immunology from Wake Forest University in 2015. As an academic post-doctorate at Emory University, Reimche learned about the ORISE Research Participation Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and immediately knew it would be the perfect opportunity to use her current knowledge while learning new skills in a public health setting.
The ORISE Research Participation Program at CDC is an educational and training program designed to provide students, recent graduates and university faculty opportunities to participate in project-specific CDC research, current public health research and developmental activities. For her appointment, Reimche was placed in the Core Whole Genome Sequencing Lab in the Laboratory Reference and Research Branch (LRRB) of the Division of STD Prevention, located within the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at CDC. Under the guidance of her mentor, Kim Gernert, Reimche is conducting research on Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the cause of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) gonorrhea.
Since 2013, N. gonorrhoeae has been considered an urgent antibiotic resistant threat by CDC. According to CDC, gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. with approximately 1.6 million new infections reported in 2018. Monitoring the strain types found throughout the U.S. and what antibiotics are effective against them is important for understanding the spread of antibiotic resistant infections, as well as gathering data to inform treatment recommendations. Reimche’s research focuses on performing bioinformatic processing and analysis of whole genome sequencing (WGS) data for N. gonorrhoeae.
“My project contributes to molecular surveillance of N. gonorrhoeae in the United States,” explained Reimche. “My team and I analyze surveillance WGS data to look for patterns and relationships between the genome sequences and other factors such as antibiotic resistance or demographic data.”
Analysis of WGS data will help researchers gain understanding of the evolution of N. gonorrhoeae and the causes of antibiotic resistance in this pathogen. Reimche is also using the results of her research to develop and implement a WGS external quality assessment (EQA), which LRRB administers to the N. gonorrhoeae Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network regional labs. The development of the EQA will help ensure that consistent, high-quality WGS data is being generated for many surveillance and research studies.
A typical day for Reimche is spent in the lab focusing on whole genome sequencing, or performing bioinformatics processing and analysis of the sequencing data. Throughout her fellowship, she is learning many valuable new skills and has been involved in several additional projects in the division. In May 2021, her research on genomic analysis of N. gonorrhoeae was published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
“The program is a great introduction to the CDC culture and mission,” said Reimche. “The switch from working with an academic, basic-research focused mindset to a public health focused mindset has been challenging but fun, and a great way to transition from my years in academia to the public health field.”
When her fellowship concludes in June 2024, Reimche hopes to continue her career at CDC and continue her research on antibiotic resistance and WGS data.
The program is managed by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE focuses on scientific initiatives including educating the next generation of scientists and is managed for DOE by ORAU.