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Fulbright alumnus Dr. Adrian Allen shares his experience of working with like-minded individuals in his field in the US, as part of his Fulbright award.
Dr. Allen works as a Senior Scientific Officer for the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he specializes in zoonotic diseases – diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Specifically, he is interested in bacterial evolution, molecular epidemiology and host resistance. In 2015, after receiving a Fulbright award to attend the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Allen joined the University’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Science, where he had the opportunity to investigate the transition dynamics of Brucella abortus, a bacterium that causes abortion in cattle, and also in humans.
Tell us more about your Fulbright experience.
My research interests encompass animal and bacterial genetics, particularly understanding the epidemiology and evolution of pathogens that cause bovine tuberculosis, an infectious disease in cattle, and brucellosis, a bacterial infection that spreads from animals to people. I was therefore honoured to receive a Fulbright award in 2015, which provided me with the opportunity to improve my knowledge and skill base in the area of bacterial genomics and bio-informatics.
How has the Fulbright award helped you in your area of expertise?
Not only did the award enable me to pursue unique research opportunities but it also afforded me the chance to work alongside leading experts in the field. Since returning to AFBI, I have become a Principal Scientific Officer in the Molecular Unit of the Bacteriology Branch. Here, I work in research areas such as population genetics and its application to bovine TB and brucellosis. My work carried out under the Fulbright award has been important in further understanding the impact of bacterial evolution, epidemiology and host resistance.
Having worked in academia in both the US and Ireland, how important do you consider international collaboration to be?
International collaboration adds so much value to research, especially in the field of pathogens. The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic serves to demonstrate how necessary cross-border sharing of knowledge and skills is for combatting disease. Through my work at the AFBI, I continue to collaborate internationally, with scientists in Ireland, the UK, Brazil, Spain, France and the US. In my experience, good science occurs at the intersection of curiosity, expertise, openness and genuine collaboration. I’ve been privileged to work with some like-minded individuals to deliver interesting and useful findings. I believe that in an open environment, ideas and collaborations combine to drive progress.
The US-UK Fulbright Commission is committed to support of international collaboration in research and empowering researchers to progress in their careers. The Commission partners with global information analytics company Elsevier to provide UK graduates opportunities for international collaboration. The Elsevier Early Career Researcher UK Awards 2020 was themed around international collaboration and featured a discussion between leaders of higher education in the US and UK about the importance to research of international relationships.