Kirty Krieger says she decided to major in microbiology in the same way Harry Potter decided to become a wizard.
“The major chose me,” Krieger says, after she tried on several other hats at Colorado State University.
Krieger, originally from Naperville, Illinois, started out in a pre-veterinarian program before considering a business degree – her brother, Eric, graduated from the College of Business in 2016. She then explored ecosystem science, and was “undeclared,” too. But she eventually found her home in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“I remember sitting in my first micro class and my jaw dropped,” she says. She was fascinated to learn about infectious diseases, and the things you can’t see with the naked eye.
According to Krieger, University Distinguished Teaching Scholar Erica Suchman, professor of microbiology, has impacted her “beyond belief” with her support and guidance.
“She really knows me for who I am,” Krieger says. “She’s taught me things like how I can always learn something from a failed experiment. I don’t know what I would want to do to this day without her.”
For the last two years, Krieger has worked in the lab of Rushika Perera, an assistant professor in virology, studying how dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika viruses behave in mosquito hosts.
“I remember going into that lab and feeling like part of a family,” says Krieger, a self-described “introverted extrovert” who now trains staff and volunteers and is a student ambassador for the college.
Suchman says she has enjoyed watching Krieger find her passion, and to mature and gain confidence as a scientist.
“She has outstanding energy and enthusiasm, and has been a very important part of the department, serving as a peer mentor and a board member in the Microbiology Students Association,” Suchman says. “She is an excellent role model who mentored our newest members of the microbiology community to help them find their passion, as she did.”
Krieger will continue to work as a research associate in the Perera Lab and with Professor Ken Olson in the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Disease Laboratory at CSU, while she applies to graduate schools.
Krieger envisions herself pursuing a post-doctoral position. She says she hopes to eventually land a role as an assistant professor at a college where she can conduct research and teach.
“A lot of people leave college and they’re not so happy about what they’re studying,” says Krieger. “I sit in class every day with my jaw dropping. It’s worth it to feel as knowledgeable as I am now, and to think like a scientist. I feel like I’m getting there, which is really exciting.”