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Alumni

Alumni Stories

Dr. Sarah R. Mielke '99

Mielke headshot

During my childhood I spent a great deal of time exploring the orchards, woods, and lakes near my home and spent summers on my aunt and uncle's farm. These experiences shaped my views and interest in the natural world. During my sophomore year in high school I decided to double up my last two years and graduate early. This was not anticipated by my parents, who preferred me to remain in high school and subsequently encouraged me to stay close to home to begin my postsecondary education. It was at Niagara County Community College that I discovered ESF. NCCC had a prominent educational track that supported student transfer into the College of Environmental Science and Forestry; and after one visit to ESF's campus I knew where I would go next.

Throughout my time at ESF, I met several excellent individuals in various realms of the college, including my peers, faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants. During orientation I met one of my lifelong friends, and we ended up living and studying together for the duration of our time at ESF. Throughout our time, we formed a small group of friends and had a great time both studying and relaxing down on Westcott St. Due to us being in similar educational tracks we took several courses together, and enjoyed the field trips during labs, which gave us numerous locations to explore outside of the classroom! We had quite a group and because we were at ESF there was a lot of studying required. One of my favorite classes was Dr. Ringler's Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy course. This was not a course you could pass without immense effort and there were nights we'd be in the lab till all hours; one time a coffee maker was acquired because the end of term practical exam was on the horizon. Although this was a difficult course, it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable courses I had at ESF.

Since leaving ESF in 1999, I have enjoyed my time working in various positions at veterinary hospitals, field research and even an ostrich ranch. After marrying into the military, I spent several years traveling across the US and raising three fabulous kids! Once my children reached school age, I returned to graduate school at The Ohio State University College of Public Health and completed an MPH in Veterinary Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences. Upon completion, I chose to remain at OSU in the College of Veterinary Medicine to complete my Ph.D. conducting research on Foot-and-Mouth disease virus in endemic tropical regions, specifically Cameroon West Africa. My work entailed studying the factors that influence persistence of the virus outside of the host in environmental matrices. The combination of my bachelors from ESF, MPH, and PH.D. allow me to pursue work regarding disease transmission and animal health. I enjoy the interdisciplinary aspect of this work to promote public and animal health through agricultural and conservation research and disease modeling.

Currently, I am an ORISE fellow training with USDA-ARS personnel at Plum Island Animal Disease Center and USDA-APHIS personnel at the Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health. When I think back over the last twenty years, I am amazed at how much has happened. What is truly amazing are the people I have met along the way, had my best friend not talked me out of taking a semester off in 1996, I may not have graduated from ESF in 1999 and from OSU with a Ph.D. in 2019. The paths we follow are riddled with important people that can impact our trajectory with their presence and honesty. It is because of these people that I am where I am today, and the shared memories filled with laughter, disappointment, excitement, sadness, and contentment created the person that I have become. I look forward to continued learning and growing for at least another twenty years!

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