Jennifer Kusovschi wanted to take her career to the next level, so even though she was busy with a full-time research fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and directing the young women’s choir at her church, she made time to further her education.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Kusovschi has called Lawrenceville, Ga., home for more than 20 years. Her parents moved to the United States from Romania, and while all of her siblings attended college, she’s the first to pursue a research science career.
After graduating from Georgia State with a biology degree, Kusovschi entered the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Research Participation Program at the CDC, which provides access to research and training opportunities, top scientists and engineers, and the latest facilities and equipment. She has worked in a CDC lab for more than four years doing research on cardiovascular biomarkers.
Eventually, Kusovschi wants to pursue a Ph.D. and continue doing research for the government. When she learned that a new research track would be available in the Biomedical Science and Enterprise master’s program, she decided to apply because it aligned with her career goals and would help her get back into the routine of attending school.
Under the guidance of Cynthia Nau Cornelissen in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, she completed her master’s thesis project on the cardiovascular research she was working on at the CDC.
Her thesis project evaluated how accurate medical records can impact cardiovascular disease risk assessment. The study developed a test to determine the presence of cholesterol-modifying drugs in human plasma.
The participants in the study had incomplete medical reports, and though it was assumed they might be taking cholesterol-modifying drugs such as statins or fibrates, this wasn’t indicated in many records. The study developed a method to fill in the missing medical information, and she found the method successfully distinguished whether patients were taking cholesterol-modifying drugs.
The results were then used to evaluate how the new information, versus uncorrected medical records, could impact cardiovascular disease risk assessment. The findings will be published in the future.
Kusovschi first developed a love for laboratory research when she took a genetics course at another college and worked with Caenorhabditis elegans. By doing public health-related research, Kusovschi realized that she can help people and make an impact throughout the entire world, all from working in a lab.
In the Biomedical Science and Enterprise master’s program, Kusovschi learned there is more to science than just research. Science also involves quality control, policy and law.
“My favorite part of the master’s program was the diverse topics of my classes,” Kusovschi said. “Having the ability to choose elective classes in the College of Law, chemistry and public health that were relevant to my career has been extremely valuable.”
One of her favorite courses was a human subjects research law course, which helped her to better understand the legal requirements behind the research that she was doing at the CDC.
The nontraditional program has been beneficial in Kusovschi’s efforts to remain at the CDC as a research scientist, but it also gave her new job opportunities to consider.
“It definitely opened my eyes to different career paths that I didn’t know existed or were a possibility and can now consider for my future,” she said.
Despite her busy schedule, music is an integral part of Kusovschi’s life. She grew up singing in the young women’s choir at her church, which she has directed for the past eight years. She also sings in her church’s main choir and has played flute and piccolo in the church’s band for 12 years.
Story by LaTina Emerson
Photo by Steven Thackston