Isabel Distefano

Isabel (Izzy) Distefano, B.S.

MPH Student | Yale School of Public Health | Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases
Laboratory of Epidemiology of Public Health (LEPH) | 60 College St. | New Haven, CT 06510
Email: [email protected] | Twitter

BS in Biology (minor: Public Health) – The College of New Jersey

My interest in science started early but my pathway into STEM is less traditional. I graduated from The College of New Jersey with a BS in Biology and minor in public health, but entered the program only knowing that I didn’t want to be a physician or teacher (the only two careers in STEM I was aware of). I started research work in systematics with my undergraduate mentor in my freshman year, and learned that I loved research and tree thinking.

Evolution and systematics only became more interesting as I realized the many ways we can apply this way of thinking to disciplines of science beyond discovery research. As I finished my minor in public health I knew that one day I would return to school to pursue an MPH in epidemiology, but prioritized work experience first.

I had a dream job at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History for six years. As scientific staff in the museum’s laboratory for molecular systematics and evolution, I performed DNA sequencing and analysis at all levels, from fingerprinting for species discovery to sequencing the first genomes for many non-model organisms. The museum’s lab is also a public exhibit space and training facility rather than a core laboratory, so much of my work also included training and mentoring students as well as communicating with the public daily about our science.

I was elected to the Field’s first DEAI council and was heavily involved with promoting internal diversity and equity, and am passionate about making science a welcoming place for folks of all backgrounds.

This Jersey girl turned Chicagoan is excited to be back on the east coast pursuing my MPH at Yale within EMD. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to apply lab skills in a public health setting that can increase and ease our understanding of disease and treatment through genomics, while also learning how to bring science communication and DEI passions to the forefront.

When I’m not in the lab you can find me thrifting, cooking a meal for my loved ones, gaming, or exploring Connecticut’s coastline.