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Hill Climbers: Pursuit of Science Led to Hill

Carolyn Shore describes herself as a “curious person.” The new science fellow for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) attributes her curiosity to her interest in science.

Shore, who joined Slaughter’s office through an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship, currently works on antibiotic resistance issues, something of a departure from the other areas she has worked on such as brain development in fruit flies, cancer in mice and malaria treatment.

Although her focus has changed throughout her studies and career, one goal has remained the same since childhood: “I always knew I wanted to work in science,” she said.

Growing up in Wayland, Mass., outside Boston, Shore envisioned herself becoming a marine biologist. As a child, she spent summers at Cape Cod and made frequent trips to the New England Aquarium.

“I could just stand there and stare at the fishes for hours,” she said. “So I’m pretty sure that’s how it all started.”

Shore moved inland for college and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she majored in biology and studio art. Studying fruit fly brain development there sparked her interest in molecular and cellular biology. “I was more drawn to the detail side of things,” she said. “I wanted to know how things work.”

After graduating, Shore accepted a Fulbright Fellowship, which took her to the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Studying cancer research in mice, she first explored her interest in connecting science and public policy. “I wanted to be able to apply science to something that would relate to public health,” she said.

After a year in Australia, Shore returned to Boston to obtain her Ph.D. at Harvard University. Committed to working on public health issues, she studied malaria and spent time in rural Senegal collecting data and distributing medicine.

She described her time treating Senegalese patients, many of whom walked miles to reach the small open-air clinic, as “probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and emotionally. … But it was very worthwhile.”

“Being out in the field and treating patients [who] have this disease made me think more broadly about what I wanted to do with my life,” she said.

Ultimately, she said, she chose to leave the research field to “work more directly on the public policy side of things.”

And that is what led Shore to Capitol Hill. Before becoming a Congressional science fellow, however, Shore spent two years at the University of Iowa as a postdoctoral fellow studying soil bacteria to be near her husband, an English professor at Grinnell College.

Since coming to Washington earlier this fall, Shore has been working on antibiotic resistance issues, especially the promotion of antibiotic-free food in school lunches.

“I work for the one microbiologist in Congress,” she said, “which is awesome, since I’m also a microbiologist.”

One of Slaughter’s priorities is the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act — first introduced in 2009 and re-introduced earlier this year — which seeks to remove antibiotics from livestock feed. Antibiotics are used in livestock feed to promote growth, which Slaughter argues leads to the production of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

Although Shore has changed her focus more than once during her career in science, she thinks she’s found a good fit with food issues and plans to continue working in the field after her yearlong Hill fellowship ends.

“I think I’d probably look to work for some other agency or group out there that works on food issues,” she said.

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