Speakers' Bureau Directory: Bohn

Sherry Bohn
Degree: PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Employer: National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) / Battelle National Biodfense Institute (BNBI)
Frederick, Maryland  21702


Primary Employer: Agricultural/Veterinary; Other N/A
Scientific Specialty: Biosafety; Other N/A
Job Title: Biosafety Officer
Years in position: 1, prior 4 years as Biosafety & Biosecurity Specialist
Presentation Type: N/A
Video Call Type:N/A
Day to day responsibilities:
As the Biosafety Officer, I am responsible for a variety of programs that ensure the health and safety of our employees, the public, and the environment. I perform project specific risk assessments, validate space and equipment decontaminations, review new equipment purchases, develop and deliver numerous trainings, approve shipments of biological agents, manage and inspect PPE, perform laboratory and facility inspections, respond to and investigate injuries and incidents, review and approve SOPs for research protocols, and generally respond to questions from research staff regarding the "best" way to do things with respect to biosafety and biosecurity. I am on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Institutional Safety Committee, the Institutional Review Committee and am the Vice Chair of the Institutional Biosafety Committee. I am the Alternate Respiratory Protection Manager and the Alternate Key and Code Control Officer.

What do you love about your job?
The best part about my job is that there is always something new - something to learn, a problem to solve, or a person to help. I had a very hard time in graduate school trying to find that "one thing" that I wanted to study for the rest of my life. With my current job, I get to be involved with the planning and execution of all projects, including facility enhancements and upgrades, vivarium projects and my own applied biosafety interests. I also am a microbiologist at heart, and the field of biodefense combines the fields of emerging infectious disease with the knowledge gained through basic microbiology and virology, and works to apply it to public security and safety. I love the fact that I get to work with a variety of people, all with various backgrounds and specialties, and the fact that no two days are ever the same.

Degrees, experience, license(s), and skills required for position:
Personally, my educational background includes a BS in Biology from Marywood University, with minors in Chemistry and Environmental Science, and a dual major in Communication Arts (Theatre). I received my PhD in Cell and Microbial Biology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and then completed a two-year Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the National Biosafety and Biosecurity Training Program at the NIH in Bethesda, MD. During the Fellowship I attended many specialized training sessions on biocontainment engineering, HVAC and airflow, animal handling concerns, emergency response and investigation, risk assessment, hazard communications, etc. I am a Specialist Microbiologist (National Registry of Microbiologists) through ASM, a Certified Biological Safety Professional through ABSA, and am OSHA 40 certified.

Tips/Advice for how to secure a job in microbiology upon graduation:
The most important thing I have learned is that careers are not stagnant. Keep your options open, and take some time to figure out what you DON'T want to do. Also, people may start out wanting to be a bench scientist, but find after five years that they are bored and want a change, or that they enjoy managing, or teaching. No matter what, every experience a person has can be looked at as an opportunity for growth and personal enrichment. You never know when you may be called upon to use a skill that was obtained during a summer job in an office or restaurant! Take every opportunity for training, personal improvement and networking!

With regard to microbiology in particular, strong coursework, searching out opportunities for research or work outside of the classroom, and strong communication skills would be a good base. Willingness to learn is a must, because with a sound basic education, new skills can be mastered. Remain professional at all times, since you never know when a personal contact may be your next professional opportunity!