Microbiologist Dr. Patricia Glas has joined the team at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) as senior advisor for NBAF Laboratory Logistics.
Glas is the first scientist to transfer from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in New York, where she worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
As part of the NBAF leadership team, she’s no stranger to Kansas. She has visited the site many times, gaining knowledge about the facility, learning about the Manhattan community and providing invaluable information to peers about PIADC and NBAF.
Glas’ interest in science stems from the idea that there is always something new to learn.
“Once you think you’ve grasped a concept and know everything you can about it, something changes or there’s something new,” she said. “You have to continue to learn and grow with it.”
The massive size of NBAF means there will be new workflows and procedures to learn, which is exciting for scientists coming to the facility, Glas added.
The progress on the facility is something to be excited about. At this point, construction is still on schedule and on budget. It is about 82% complete with a little over $1 billion of the $1.25 billion budget spent. The new security facility being constructed at the entrance to the NBAF campus progresses as outside stonework and other finishes take shape. Inside, animal housing is being constructed, wall and floor finishes are moving along, and laboratory furnishing is being installed.
The USDA expects to have extended employment offers to 100 employees by the end of September and will be hiring more staff in 2020.
Currently, more than 50 people are working at the temporary USDA-NBAF office or will be coming soon. New hires are filling critical positions and helping move operational standup forward. They include people from Manhattan and surrounding areas, many of whom were hired through the veteran’s preference hiring program.
More than 428 people participated in the first NBAF career fair in June. Job candidates will have another chance to find out about NBAF positions in September when USDA participates in a career fair, hosted by Kansas State University.
Other opportunities at the facility involve the NBAF Scientist Training Program (NSTP), sponsored by USDA-APHIS to help create a pipeline of new scientists to work at NBAF.
NSTP fellows will receive full tuition and supplementary support for up to five years to complete their master’s, doctorate or dual doctorate of veterinary medicine and Ph.D. degrees in targeted fields of study: microbiology, virology, molecular biology, diagnostics, etc.
Based on the number of years of funding, fellows will be required to fulfill a service commitment by working at NBAF. For example, a fellow who received two years of funding will essentially be able to “pay back” funding by working at USDA for four years. Currently, 15 students from 10 universities are participating in the program and there’s room for more.
The USDA Agricultural Research Service has an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship program that will also be a great asset to NBAF. In addition, USDA is working to develop a bachelor’s degree level or certificate program for laboratorian training that follows the same concept as the NSTP.
Students can learn more about the NSTP program at aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nbaf-scientist-training.
Ken Burton, DVM, is National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) coordinator.