Thursday, March 15, 2012

Women in Science and Engineering Blog Series: Part Two, Mary Wade

In recognition of Women's History Month, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) presents a special blog series featuring candid responses from female ECBC employees and leaders on their experiences as females in the science and engineering fields. The second blog in this sereis features Mary Wade, Supervisory Biologist and Branch Chief for the BioDefense Branch within ECBC's BioSciences Division.
If I were to be able to go back and tell my teenage, or even early college age, self that I would be working as a scientist and supervisor for the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Md. I am not sure I would believe it. I did not always know that I would be a scientist. In fact, growing up in a family with generations of civil engineers, I was pushed to also pursue engineering. However, I was not very interested in that particular field and entered college as a biology major instead due to a strong interest in science and medicine, although still not 100% sure what I would ultimately do with a degree in biology.
It was not until my junior year in college when I knew that I wanted to be a microbiologist. I had taken my first microbiology course at the time with a professor that was very enthusiastic about his field and he really influenced my direction of study from that point on. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I went to graduate school and completed a PhD in microbiology. I then moved to Maryland for a postdoctoral fellow position at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. My research focus as a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow were both in the public health arena and even as a postdoc I still thought I would move back south and take a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, I saw a position at ECBC as a research microbiologist to work in the BL3 laboratory and the thought of conducting biodefense research seemed very exciting and rewarding. I was offered the position and began working at APG in 2004. I began working in the BL3 laboratory as a member of the BioDefense Branch and conducted research in the area of bio-detection for about six years before entering into a management role as the Branch Chief for BioDefense Branch in 2011.
As a female manager at ECBC there are challenges. I look around and recognize there are fewer women in leadership roles than in the laboratory. However, I think that will soon change, and over the next few years, there will be an increase in the number of female branch chiefs and division chiefs at ECBC. Already we have seen the first female Senior Executive Service (SES) appointed at ECBC and that fills me with pride. I can only hope that I might somehow contribute to the growing representation of women in leadership roles just as the strong women that have come before me have helped make it possible for me to serve as a leader today.
Mary Margaret Wade, PhD is a Supervisory Biologist, Branch Chief for the BioDefense Branch within the BioSciences Division for the Research and Technology (R&T) Directorate at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC).

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Department of the Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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