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Alumni Spotlight:
Featuring Utsav Pandey

In this edition of BMB’s Alumni Spotlight, we feature Utsav Pandey, Ph.D.

Image of Utsav Pandey

Currently Utsav is the Technical Director of Microbiological Services, at Kaiser Permanente, in Los Angeles, California. He is a graduate of our department’s Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, and earned his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in 2018. While at Penn State he conducted his research in the Szpara Laboratory under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Moriah Szpara.  His research focused on genetic variation in herpesvirus and its effect on disease manifestation.

After graduating from Penn State, Utsav moved to Los Angeles for his post-graduate fellowship in clinical microbiology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles/University of Southern California.  In October of 2020, he made his way back to the east coast to take the role of Chieif of Microbiology at Westchester Medical Center with a faculty appointment at the New York Medical College as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Pathology department.

Most recently, Utsav has made his way back to the west coast and back to the city of Los Angeles where he serves in his current role as the Technical Director of Microbiology Services, at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California Permanente Group.

You can follow Utsav on LinkedIn

Let’s chat with Utsav, talk about his experiences while at Penn State, what inspires him, and catch up with what he’s been up to.

What is it that you do at Kaiser Permanente?

In my role as the Technical Director of Microbiology Services, I am responsible for overseeing technical and clinical aspects of the microbiology laboratory which provides a wide spectrum of diagnostic infectious disease testing. My day-to-day involves supervising laboratory staff to ensure accurate diagnostic test results are reported, consulting with physicians about appropriate diagnostic testing and test interpretation, and directing the development and implementation of various new technological advances in the area of microbiology and molecular infectious disease testing. In conjunction with the rest of the laboratory leadership, I also provide strategic leadership and direction to the department as a whole.

Image of Utsav Pandey and his lab team at the holiday party

What was it that made you want to come to Penn State, and BMB, to pursue your education?

Penn State and the BMB department were always my top choices when applying for graduate school. I was impressed by the breadth of infectious disease research being conducted by the faculty members of the BMB department. The ability to get involved in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) helped further cement my decision.

How do you feel Penn State, and BMB, prepared you for your current position or career?

Image of Utsav Pandey at the Lion Shrine at Penn State Univeristy

My experiences at Penn State were foundational in preparing me for my current role. Since joining the laboratory of Dr. Moriah Szpara as a first-year graduate student, I felt completely supported. I had the opportunity to work with a productive group of people in a supportive environment, which set me up for success while teaching me valuable lessons on teamwork and the importance of interpersonal relations. My aspiration to become a clinical microbiologist after completion of my PhD was championed by Dr. Szpara and my thesis committee, which provided me with additional encouragement when applying for competitive post-graduate fellowships. The technical knowledge I acquired as a graduate student continues to be pivotal in my current job and sets me apart from colleagues in similar role as mine.

Share at least one interesting/fun fact about yourself.

I once met John Hamm at a bar and had a conversation about Mad Men and my profession.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I enjoy watching sports (mostly soccer), movies and TV shows. I also like to cook and play tennis.

Once a Nittany Lion, Always a Nittany Lion!  We Are Penn State

I was visiting a friend (also a Penn State alumni) in Portland, Oregon and we wanted to watch a Penn State Football game at a nearby bar. When we walked in, we realized that's where Penn State alumni in the area met regularly to watch football games. It was an amazing experience and brought back fond memories of going to the games when I was a student. It also made me realize how widespread Penn State alumni are and the level of support enthusiasm, and passion they had for their alma mater.

Advice from Utsav to future generations of scientists:

The most important advice I have for prospective graduate students is, it is never too early to start thinking about their career post-PhD. Careers outside of academia may not be obvious as a graduate student but they do exist. I would urge graduate students to spend time exploring different career opportunities and networking with individuals in different fields of work.