Savannah Sanchez has a bright future in microbiology, but only a handful of years ago she was contemplating a career in professional motocross.
Now a senior doctoral student in the lab of Dr. Anders Omsland in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health at Washington State University, Savannah was just 16 years old when she won a state motocross championship in California.
“The intent was for me to turn professional the year after, but I broke my arm before a huge qualifying event that left me in a cast for over six months,” the San Diego, California, native said. “After being out for over a year I lost interest in racing competitively.”
Motocross’ loss, science’s gain.
In Omsland’s lab, Savannah’s research is centered on the relationship between key nutrients associated with the intracellular environment of Coxiella burnetii and the bacterium’s ability to cause disease.
“Recently, I have shown that iron plays a much larger role than previously thought in Coxiella burnetii replication and viability,” Savannah said.
While Savannah is excelling in her research, she is quick to remind others that success in science is hard to come by without a strong support system.
“Obtaining a doctoral degree is challenging and it can be made even more challenging when you don’t have a good support system,” she said. “Science is a team sport, therefore you cannot expect to succeed without a good scientific support system backing you up. Since being at WSU I have met some amazing individuals whose support, both in and out of the lab, has greatly contributed to my personal success and I hope will continue to do so as my career progresses.”
When she leaves WSU with her doctorate in hand, Savannah plans to secure a post-doctoral position at an academic or government research institution and continue studying microorganisms, such as vector-borne bacterial and parasitic diseases.
“I have always been drawn to microorganisms, but never imagined you could make a career studying them,” she said. “I am a microbiologist and maybe it took me a little longer to realize that, but it was worth it because I love what I do.”