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K-State Today

June 12, 2017



National Agricultural Biosecurity Center hosts intern through Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence

By Sarah Hancock

Willis BRI

The Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases at Texas A&M University selected six undergraduate students through a nationwide application process to participate in its IIAD Summer Internship Program. One of those interns is working at the K-State National Agricultural Biosecurity Center, or NABC, for a six-week internship.

Brianna Willis graduated in May from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in animal science and will return in the fall to pursue a master's in epidemiology. Willis' NABC mentors are Ken Burton, program director, and Joe Fund, project manager. Willis' project is helping NABC develop the National Livestock Readiness Program website, which will provide agricultural professionals and first responders with a reliable, efficient information source for high-consequence animal disease response planning, training and information exchange. The biodefense-focused site will include spaces that allow states to exchange information about best practices and disaster preparedness plans.

"The team is very supportive and open to my input, and I'm very fortunate to have a group that wants to make sure I excel even after the project is over," Willis said.

Willis' career goal is to work internationally at the World Health Organization, the World Organisation for Animal Health, or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. She worked for the latter agency in summer 2016 with the Emergency Prevention System.

"I love working in extremely diverse environments and coming together to reach a common goal for the betterment of a population, whether it is animal or human. Understanding the different layers of the field from policy to One Health and beyond is very important, and being multidimensional is critical," she said.

Willis will spend one week attending the Transboundary Animal Disease Summer Program sponsored by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases at the Biosecurity Research Institute, where she will learn about high-consequence transboundary animal diseases and high containment research.

Willis also will present her work at the end of June. Her presentation will be open to the K-State community and will be broadcast to the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases and other participants. Contact NABC at 785-532-6193 for more information.