Fashionable Watches

Into Science? Watch Chris, Researcher at Dartmouth

Into Science? Watch Chris, Researcher at Dartmouth


“My name is Chris Rees. I’m a fourth year
MD-PhD candidate here at Dartmouth and I’m doing my PhD in Jane Hill’s Lab which is at
the Thayer School of Engineering. My area of is interest in terms of research is in
developing a novel diagnostic for the characterization of antibiotic resistance patterns in highly
resistant species of bacteria. My particular area of interest is carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae
which refers to a group of organisms that have acquired resistance to most, if not all,
commercially available antibiotic drugs. Those bacteria now are still relatively rare as
bacterial infections go but every year they’re proportionately representing more and more
of all infections that you would see. In those cases, it’s really important that you treat
appropriately, as quickly as you possibly can because the longer a patient goes without
appropriate treatment the more likely they are to suffer long term consequences of their
infection. Right now it takes between three days and a week to get a definitive diagnosis
plus antibiotic susceptibility profiling and we’re hoping to take the steps that would
lead to a diagnostic that could do that in a matter of minutes if not hours. I’m originally from Massachusetts. I dabbled
in a little bit of everything and never became really great at anything. I think I was the
kid who my parents tried to push me to try a little bit of everything. I did basketball
and baseball and lacrosse and all those sort of things. I learned to play the piano and
the violin. I don’t think I necessarily retained any of those skills but it was fun to have
the variety. And maybe that’s where my need for variety in life comes from. We do everything from microbiology to analytical
chemistry to using different computational techniques to analyze data sets. It’s nice
to come in on a given day and know that you’ll get to do one thing you’re interested in and
then the next day you’ll get to do something completely different that you’re also interested
in. In terms of research, I really came to appreciate that it was something that I enjoyed
doing and discovering things that have not been discovered before. When you take a step
back and think about it, it’s actually a pretty profound opportunity to get to do something
neat. It can definitely seem to be pretty gargantuan task when you first encounter just
the data set that we generate. The really great thing about this environment is because
we’re so multi-disciplinary we have people in the lab with really diverse backgrounds.
We have engineers, computer scientists, biostatisticians, microbiologists. If I have a question or am
approaching a problem that I’ve not approached before, the odds are really good that there’s
going to be someone in the group who can help me or push me in the right direction. I think the ultimate goal would be to develop
a tool that could very rapidly determine what kind of organism a patient with pneumonia
has and what kind of therapies they’re likely to respond to. Right now the amount of time
that it takes is not sufficient for a lot of people who are very sick. Hopefully, what
we do can help to cut down on the time to make that diagnosis from about a week to a
few hours. I guess one thing that I’ve come to appreciate
about both research and medicine to a certain extent, is that those careers are ones that
are not likely to stagnate. You have the opportunity to do something new every day. We are not
going to be able to answer all of the world’s problems in the next generation or probably
not the one after that or the one after that. If you have questions that you really feel
you want to answer, the odds are good that you’ll have the opportunity to try to answer
them. A lot of what we know about the human body has been around for hundred years and
every couple weeks a new drug comes about or a new procedure is developed. So as much
as our core knowledge of medicine is fixed, there’s a lot of it that changes on a decently
regular basis. If you want a career that’s going to let you do a number of things and
that’s going to keep you engaged and keep you focused on a daily basis, I think either
research or medicine are two really viable options for that.”


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