Evolutionary biologist studies food-borne parasite Meet Adam Vera

Adam Vera

Adam Vera has a passion for public health, and as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fellow he is making a difference in his community. (Photo Credit: CDC)

As a second generation Mexican American, Adam Vera was shown the importance of higher education from an early age. This educational foundation was instilled from a mother born in Mexico and a father born in the United States. His educational career path was unconventional, as he did not think higher education was an avenue he could pursue.

Vera completed a vocational education as a dental assistant, where he learned more about his capabilities to pursue a higher education. His journey led him to El Paso Community College, where he attended night classes to receive his associate of arts degree. Next, Vera attended the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to complete his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in biomedical sciences and his master’s degree in biological sciences before transferring into the ecology and evolutionary biology doctorate program.

Here, his research project focused on mosquito species of the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Specifically, Vera focused on the mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, a known vector for dengue, Chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever viruses. This project inspired his passion for public health by working with community members to increase their awareness of mosquito-borne illnesses in the region.

While graduate studies provided him with opportunities to learn new laboratory skills, he sought additional opportunities to develop professional skills. He participated in the Virtual Student Federal Service program with the U.S. State Department and the Hispanic Association for Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship program with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). These internships provided him with invaluable experiences working within the U.S. government and led to his pursuit for a career in public health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

After graduating, Vera accepted an appointment with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) as a fellow at the CDC in the Parasitic Disease Branch. The CDC Research Participation Programs are educational training programs designed to provide students, recent graduates and university faculty opportunities to participate in project-specific CDC research, current public health research and developmental activities.

Vera’s project utilizes advanced molecular detection methods to identify the food-borne parasite Cyclospora cayatanensis. This project seeks to improve the understanding of this parasite to reduce occurrences of the diarrheal illness Cylosporiasis.

Through this fellowship, Vera has been able to improve his laboratory skills to become a better microbiologist. The experience also provided him with important experiences and further increased his desire of establishing a professional career within the U.S. government.

The CDC Research Participation Program is managed by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an agreement between CDC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.