Cari Reynolds did not follow a typical path to Miner Institute’s research program, but she is so pleased she arrived here. “I found where I fit in,” she said of Miner Institute.
Cari grew up in Lenoxville, PA – between Binghamton, NY and Scranton, PA. She studied biology at the University of Scranton with the intention of becoming a physician, but then realized that wasn’t truly what she wanted to do. After earning her bachelor's degree in 2008, she got a job at a large pharmaceutical company doing cleaning validation on stainless steel equipment. It was a four-month contract and then she was hired by the company to help manufacture the bacterial meningitis vaccine.
“I need to find meaning in what I do for work,” Cari said. “I need to feel accomplished.” The manufacturing work was too methodic and didn’t suit her well, she said. In 2014, she moved to Boston. There, she spent a year and a half working as a quality specialist in drug manufacturing for rare diseases while working toward her masters at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned a master’s degree in public health with a focus on epidemiology in 2015. She then worked managing a clinical trial for a national vascular surgery study with 150 study sites across the U.S. That job gave her good project management experience and the opportunity to travel.
But “at my very core, I was not happy,” Cari recalled. In fall 2017, Cari returned home to figure out what to do next. She said that her attitude improved once she was back home, and she realized that “you have to be happy at work.” Despite not knowing what it was she wanted to do, Cari did recognize that a positive workplace environment and meaningful work were two traits she valued.
Cari realized that she “wanted to come back to agriculture.” She grew up with dairy farms in her family and started thinking about job opportunities in agricultural public health. In September 2018, Cari said she “found Miner by accident” when the yearlong research internship job posting showed up in a search. “At a time in my life where I felt like I had nothing else to lose, I emailed Katie Ballard,” Cari remembered.
“Cari’s overall resume was certainly unique from her background and work experience to the menu-styled CV she initially sent us,” Katie said. Although the selection committee had some reservations about Cari as a candidate, they decided to do a phone interview. “What was evident from that phone conversation was Cari’s maturity, thoughtfulness in terms of what she knew she didn’t want to do and knowing that she felt drawn to ag in some form or another,” Katie recalled. “Her sense of humor was another plus and we felt she was worth an in-person visit.”
Cari was hired as the yearlong research intern in December 2018 and recently made the decision to stay on at Miner by accepting a graduate assistantship position to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Vermont. Cari is taking courses online and working on a program that focuses on improving management strategies to prevent disease in calves, and help them develop healthy, strong immune systems. This educational track “bridges the gap” between Cari’s human health interests and her interests in agriculture, as many of the diseases that affect animals can also affect humans. She hopes to focus on preventative management strategies that could help to reduce antibiotic use.
“Miner showed up in my life when I needed it most,” Cari said. “The culture here is incomparable. The people are unbelievably kind. That’s rare.” Cari said that it didn’t take her long after she first arrived at Miner to feel comfortable and like she’d found the right place for her.
Ultimately, she hopes to stay working in research because she really enjoys it. She also really enjoys writing and hopes to be a scientific writer. “Cari has a gift for writing in an engaging and humor-based style that certainly has benefitted our Farm Report readership,” Katie said. “This gift has opened doors for her to be asked to write in other ag journals that has given her a national and international audience. From the science standpoint, her background in public health has provided her a springboard for the Ph.D. program she is pursuing at UVM,” Katie said. “We’re glad to have her on our team.”