Diagnostic Test Developer
“I had worked in clinical microbiology for a number of years and wanted to broaden my knowledge and take my career to the next level,” recalls Marisa (Tudino) DeMeo, VG17. “I chose the M.S. in Infectious Disease & Global Health (MS-IDGH) program at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for its curriculum, hands-on laboratory training, small class size, one-year duration, and location.”
DeMeo grew up in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, around many small farm animals at home and her grandparents’ house. Her love for helping people led her to earn a B.S. in medical laboratory science from the University of Rhode Island. After starting in pre-med, she quickly fell in love with microbiology.
“I thought I wanted to become a doctor,” she explains. “However, my undergraduate degree paired microbiology with medicine in a clinical setting.” After graduating, she completed a yearlong internship at Rhode Island Hospital, then obtained board certification as a medical laboratory scientist from the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and spent three years working in the Hospital’s microbiology lab.
Medical laboratory scientists perform and analyze high-complexity diagnostic tests in clinical laboratories. “I loved being a detective in the lab,” she shares. “Part of the job is figuring out what is going on by taking into account separate pieces of information such as patient history, what organism is growing, where the organism is usually found, and many other factors to find out how these pieces make sense together.”
She then found Cummings School’s MS-IDGH program. “The program homed in and sharpened several important professional skills for me. In scientific-based work, I am consistently using my presentation, analytical, critical thinking, and laboratory skills,” DeMeo says, crediting the program with teaching her highly transferable wet lab skills, and preparing her for her current role through class presentations and scientific writing assignments.
“As a scientist, I need to sometimes explain complex data in a way that is easy to understand, while providing a hypothesis to what I think could be happening. The program gave me the tools to excel in my profession and I still use those skills today, DeMeo contends.
With the help of knowledgeable professors, she was encouraged and supported throughout her Cummings School education. “All my professors genuinely cared about the students and helped us achieve our goals. [Associate Professor] Dr. [Abhineet] Sheoran was my program mentor. He gave valuable feedback and pushed me to be better … his support was vital to my success.”
DeMeo has maintained a connection with the School. “I developed lifelong friendships and regularly keep in touch with several of my classmates, and I have returned to Cummings School the past few years to guest lecture on the topic of clinical and basic microbiology techniques.”
With her experience in running diagnostics tests and a master’s degree in hand, DeMeo worked for two more years in microbiology at Rhode Island Hospital, before she was ready for the next step of her journey: helping to develop diagnostic tests.
She landed a position at Sherlock Biosciences, based in Watertown, Massachusetts. Sherlock uses cutting edge biology tools like CRISPR to create rapid, accurate, and affordable diagnostic tests. In just three years, DeMeo has co-authored two papers, earned a company award for exemplifying one of Sherlock’s core values of excellence, and garnered two promotions. She now serves as a scientist in assay development, where she hopes to continue to grow and learn, and maybe one day, lead a team of her own.
“Our development of diagnostic tests has the potential to make a global impact,” she says. “I want to make a difference in the world by helping people, and I love doing that at the intersection of science and medicine.”
Department:MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health