In this edition of BMB's Alumni Spotlight, we feature Cindy Prins, Ph.D.
Cindy came to Penn State after earning her bachelor's of science degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida. As a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Program her research focused on the study of the John Cunningham (JC) Virus.
After defending her thesis and earning her Ph.D in 2000, she then traveled to the University of Florida (UF) where she served as a Post-Doctoral Fellow, focusing her research on the regulation of vaccinia virus transcription elongation. Concurrently, she earned her Masters of Public Health Degree in the Epidemiology concentration from the College of Public Health and Health Professions at UF in the fall of 2006. After this she worked as an Infection Control Practitioner at UF Health Shands Hospital.
Cindy joined the Epidemiology faculty at the University of Florida first as an adjunct lecturer in 2009 and then full time as a clinical assistant professor in the fall of 2010. Her research interests include the prevention of healthcare-associated infections, including those caused by multi-drug resistant organisms, and compliance with vaccine recommendations. Cindy is also Board Certified in Infection Control (CIC) and Public Health (CPH).
Currently, Cindy is a Clinical Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Educational Affairs at the University of Florida. She is also devoting a lot of her time as the new campus Infection Preventionist with the University of Florida Screen, Test and Protect Program.
Let's chat with Cindy, talk about her experiences while at Penn State, and catch up with what she's been up to.
What do you do in your roles at the University of Florida?
"Right now I'm involved in several COVID-19 response activities. I'm working with two groups in the state to advise about a return to operations and have just started working to provide assistance and advice on infection control through our campus Screen, Test and Protect program as we worked to resume many campus operations and events. This is a unique role since infection control usually takes place in a healthcare setting, so I’m excited to take this on. I've been doing a lot of media interviews right now to help teach the public more about COVID-19 and how they can keep themselves safe. I'm also working on our college's re-accreditation self-study and doing some teaching. And I'm part of a research group looking at how masks can be modified so they can be safely worn for longer periods of time by healthcare workers."
What was it that made you want to come to Penn State, and BMB, to pursue your education?
"I loved the flexibility of the BMB program. I wasn't sure what area of study I would want to pursue so it was great to have so many different options. I also really enjoyed meeting the faculty and I loved State College right away."
How do you feel Penn State, and BMB, prepared you for your current position or career?
"I had amazing mentorship from Dick Frisque and the whole BMB atmosphere was supportive. I was there with an amazing cohort of students and we supported each other. Doing a PhD can be challenging so that positive atmosphere and support is critical. I think that Dick set a high bar as a mentor and educator. I have applied a lot of things that I learned from him, like always following up on questions that students ask in class if I didn't know the answer, and I include an ethics section in each of my epidemiology courses."
Share at least one interesting/fun fact about yourself.
"I love to look for shark's teeth on the beach. This was a family activity for a long time after I moved back to Florida and I have a huge vase of them, plus a tattoo of a shark's tooth on my ankle."
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
"I love tennis, running/walking, working on my house, and traveling, especially to visit family in New Zealand. I am a dedicated blood donor; I try to donate platelets every two weeks and have donated more than 200 times."
Advice from Cindy to future generations of scientists:
"I would say that you should be creative in thinking about your career path. When I decided to switch from basic research to public health I was worried that I was "throwing away" so much time and training. But that lab background has served me so well, both when I worked in infection control and now in my current position. Take advantage of unexpected opportunities because they could lead to something completely new and exciting for you. I never thought I would be in a role of doing infection control on campus but I was very interested in the position and proposed a way to work it into my responsibilities and, with the support of my college, I get to make that happen."