Brandon Pierce, University of Chicago
What sparked your decision to become an epidemiologist?
As a college student at Washington University in St. Louis, my interests were genetics, environmental science, math, and medicine. Going into my senior year, I did not have a clear career plan. However, mid-year I heard about a new MS program in Genetic Epidemiology being launched at the Medical School the following year. They were looking for applicants with experience in math, biology, and computer science, and I fit the bill pretty well. I was accepted, and my journey as an epidemiologist began. I loved the work and never looked back.
Where is your favorite place to vacation?
My wife’s family is from Wisconsin, so we spend at least one week each summer at a cabin on a lake in the Eagle River area in Northern Wisconsin. It’s a great place to be in the summer.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle facing epidemiologists in the next five years?
The challenge closest to my research is acquiring the data science skills and knowledge of emerging “omics” technologies in order to obtain and manipulate diverse types of biological data and perform sensible integration with epidemiologic data. These skills will enable novel analyses and hopefully facilitate the discovery of health-related biomarkers and biological processes underlying disease. Another substantial challenge is the identification of research areas that have strong potential for enhancing prevention and treatment of disease.
Do you have any pets?
We have a 90-pound mutt. He’s probably part German Sheppard and maybe part Irish Wolfhound, but we’re not sure. He looks like he’s built from spare parts. He scares our neighbors, but we love him.
Why did you join SER? What keeps you coming back?
I joined SER in 2009, just after earning my PhD. I wish I had joined earlier because it’s an amazing meeting for students to attend and present their work. I keep coming back because there is no better way to stay abreast of what is happening in epidemiology, in terms of methodological innovations, emerging challenges, and exciting findings and trends in the field.
What advice do you give students who want to become epidemiologists?
First and foremost, find research areas that inspire you. Follow your passion, but be on the lookout for unique opportunities. Master the core competencies in epidemiology, but also expand your expertise and skills to emerging areas research that require a unique skill set. Seek out individuals working in that area and build a network of mentors and potential collaborators.
Outside of epidemiology what do you enjoy doing?
I play soccer at least once a week. I get around on a bicycle. I love going to the beaches of Lake Michigan with my 2 year old son. I spend a little bit of time each week playing piano and guitar. On weekends I can often be found smoking ribs, brisket, chicken or fish in my backyard.
What is something that not many people know about you?
I have officiated one wedding. I’m available if you’re interested.