Allegheny Alumna’s Contributions Support Public Health Efforts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Kristie Connolly
Kristie Connolly

Kristie Connolly ’07 relentlessly supports public health as a program officer for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a branch of the National Institutes of Health. During her junior year at Allegheny College, she became fascinated with microbiology, which has directed her career ever since.

“I initially started at Allegheny as pre-med,” says Connolly. “A science Ph.D. wasn’t presented as an option to me, so seeing what kinds of jobs are out there and talking to people about different careers in biology really sparked my interest in graduate school.”

After graduating from Allegheny with a degree in biology and a minor in psychology, Connolly pursued a doctorate in microbiology and immunology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The Senior Comp at Allegheny helped prepare Connolly with direct, hands-on lab experience that she further applied during her graduate studies.

“Doing the comp was a really great experience,” she says. “I was lucky enough to be able to do an internship the summer before and start on it. Putting together the science is crucial to prepare anyone for graduate school.”

After earning her Ph.D., Connolly worked for the Henry Jackson Foundation at Uniformed Services University. For 10 years, she stayed at the lab as a senior staff scientist,  where she managed a team that tested vaccines and antibiotics for gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted infection (STI). One of the papers she contributed to was cited by the CDC to support the changing recommendations for gonorrhea.

As a program officer with NIAID, Connolly primarily manages a grant portfolio focused on new therapeutics and vaccines to treat STIs. Once grants are funded, she ensures the research is pursued strategically and milestones are met.

Connolly enjoys hearing about groundbreaking science before it is published and interacting with principal investigators to learn about the next advancement in biology.