From Peace Corps to Ph.D. Program: Spotlight on Kristen Walker

Headshot of graduate student Kristen Walker.
Graduate student Kristen Walker.
Kristen Walker is a biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), where she investigates the genomics of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and works to create a toolkit of immune reagents for swine. First detected in the U.S. in the late 1980s, PRRSV is one of the most serious threats to domestic pork production.

Walker is also currently a Ph.D. student in the Bioenvironmental Science program at Morgan State University. Her dissertation project focuses on finding an alternative treatment to antibiotics for bacterial skin infections, using nanoparticles and microwaves. She earned a B.S. degree in Animal Science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and an M.S. degree in Animal Science at Kansas State University.

One of Walker's most notable achievements involves her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa. “Apart from my laboratory research, I am particularly interested in influencing the educational opportunities of underserved populations,” says Walker. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she taught health biology, environmental education, sustainable development and information and communication technology at a secondary school in Cameroon. Walker also received several scholarships through the A2Empowerment Program, a non-profit company, in partnership with Peace Corps, dedicated to empowering women through education. Through this scholarship program, Walker counseled and academically advised girls towards the successful completion of their final year of secondary school. She also organized and facilitated weekly health meetings with community members in Cameroon, focusing on malaria, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, environmental protection and water sanitation.

Walker joined ASM after participating in the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). She volunteered as a poster judge and represented ARS at the Career Pathways in the Biomedical Sciences session at ABRCMS 2018. Subsequently, she participated in the ASM Profession of Microbiology (POM) retreat in April 2019, offering a student’s perspective on the future of ASM’s career development initiatives.

Author: Tyniah McDuffie

Tyniah McDuffie
Tyniah McDuffie is the communications coordinator at ASM and the production editor for Microcosm, ASM’s member magazine.