Dr. Joel Maki, PhD
Major Professor: Dr. Torey Looft and Dr. Gwyn Beattie
Home Department: Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine
Dissertation Title: Bacterial succession and specialization within the poultry gastrointestinal tract
Fellowships and Awards: ISU CALS+Presidential Scholarship, ISU Research Excellence Award
Current Job Title: University of Rochester Medical Center Clinical Microbiology Postdoctoral Fellow
Please describe your current position
I am currently a postdoc at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) clinical microbiology lab as part of the American Society for Microbiology’s CPEP fellowship program. In this program, I undergo training in clinical and public health microbiology to eventually serve as the director of a clinical/public health microbiology lab. I also have the opportunity to conduct research, interact with physicians/patients, and aid in the day-to-day responsibilities of running a clinical microbiology lab.
Please describe your research at ISU
My research at ISU centered on bacterial acquisition and succession in the gastrointestinal tract of chickens. I also described several new species of bacteria found in the chicken gut and explored bacteria:bile interactions as potential modifiers of chicken nutrient absorption. The main goal of my research was to provide a better understanding of where chickens (and other poultry species) obtain their gut microbes and how different groups of these microbes may impact bird health and performance.
How did your time in the Interdepartmental Microbiology program prepare you for your current position?
The Interdepartmental Microbiology program exposed me to a broad range of topics in microbiology, both through the lab rotational process I took part in my first year as well as in interacting with other graduate students and faculty members. This broad knowledge base has helped me immensely as I undergo training in clinical and public health microbiology.
What advice would you give students looking for work in a similar position or field?
Don’t be afraid to branch out into something new that may initially seem outside of your area of expertise. You develop a ton of applicable skills during graduate school, so apply those skills to the area you’re interested in. While I had very little experience in clinical microbiology, I focused on my background in veterinary microbiology and whole genome sequencing for my application and interviews, ultimately getting me into the URMC program.
What was your favorite part of the Interdepartmental Microbiology program?
I enjoyed attending the Microbiology Graduate Student Organization meetings and generally hanging out with many of the other graduate students within the program. It helped to build a sense of camaraderie that made my time at ISU a lot more fun and provided a support system that helped me get through the highs and lows of graduate school. Some of my best friends are from the IM micro program!
What was your favorite part of living in Ames?
Ames has the amenities of a bigger city while also having access to many walking/hiking trails. The cost of living is also fairly cheap.
If you could give new students in the program a piece of advice, what would you say?
Use your time here to pick up as many skills as possible, both in the lab and outside of it. Having access to a broad skill set will give you the flexibility to take your research, or your career, a variety of directions.
What advice would you give students about to graduate and enter the job market?
Don’t think you need to be “fully qualified” to apply for a specific job/postdoc position. Highlight your interest in the position, any skills that you think are even remotely applicable, and dazzle them with your soft skills. They’ll be willing to train you as long as you come off as eager and hard-working with good interpersonal skills.