JUPITR is unique in that it sends ECBC and Public Health Command (PHC) researchers to South Korea to work alongside USFK representatives to improve their laboratory capabilities. Renner was one of ten ECBC scientists who made the journey so far, and one of two who have completed more than one rotation. Now, Renner shares some of her experiences in this role and how this assignment will shape her future at ECBC and with the Department of Defense in general..
What is your educational background, and how did you get started at ECBC?I graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2003 with Bachelor’s Degrees in biology and chemistry. After graduation, I really didn’t know exactly what type of work I wanted to pursue. While I was in college, I worked a seasonal job at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Remediation, following graduation I returned there. One day, I came across a Monster.com job posting for a contractor position with ECBC’s analytical toxicology team. It sounded intriguing and after doing a little research, I realized how important ECBC’s work is to the nation, so I applied. The interview went well and in November 2003, I was offered a position by Geo-Centers, Inc. as a Scientist 1. I’ve worked with ECBC ever since eventually making the move from contractor to government employee. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work for both the analytical toxicology and operational toxicology teams in different facets. I completed University of Florida’s online masters program in forensic toxicology in 2007, with the help of my previous company.
How did you initially get involved with JUPITR?I first heard about JUPITR when Peter Emanuel [JUPITR Program lead] sent out a mass invitation to an informational meeting about the JUPITR ATD in Korea. I love traveling and am always looking for opportunities to learn so, it piqued my interest. Initially, I simply planned to attend the meeting to learn more information, but at the end of the meeting, Peter asked for volunteers to go to Korea, and I found myself signing up. I realized what an amazing developmental assignment this was and what an amazing opportunity this program would give me, so I did not hesitate to participate.
Why did you participate in two rotations? How did your first time there differ from the second?I originally volunteered to go to ROK for two months, but my first rotation was only a month long. In that month, I had fallen in love with the job and Korea itself, so when I returned to the U.S., I had made sure to let everyone know that I was available to go back if they needed me. As it turned out, they did need me to return and I gladly accepted the opportunity. Returning to Korea gave me an opportunity to re-engage with some of the projects I started during my first rotation. My first rotation went by quickly and much of that time in the beginning was spent acclimating to my surroundings, learning local policies/procedures, and forming relationships with our contacts and lab/military personnel. On my second rotation with all of the adjustments out of the way, I could focus on the primary goal of the project: to improve the capability of USFK to respond to biological events.
Additionally, I think the Army and Air Force appreciated the continuity in personnel. Since it does take a while for scientists to get acclimated and build relationships, I think it provided them with relief to have someone who could jump in and be dedicated to the actual project work.