Had things gone a little differently, Professor Shannon Hogan might have been a psychiatrist instead of a teacher. As a freshman at the University of New Hampshire with his heart set on psychiatry, Professor Hogan began working for a phone crisis hotline. During his three semesters working the hotline, two things became very clear to him: he didn’t like the job, and other volunteers were better at it anyway. In an attempt to separate himself from psychology, he experimented with new courses. One in particular, microbiology, seemed to fit him so well that he found that he even enjoyed studying for it. Sensing his passion for microbiology, Hogan’s professor at the time convinced him to try virology, and after working at a virology lab for a semester he was hooked.
Had things gone a little differently, Professor Shannon Hogan might have been a psychiatrist instead of a teacher.
Turning away from the larger field of medical virology, Hogan instead looked for universities with a strong environmental virology Ph.D. Program. As fate would have it, UNH was one of only four major centers for environmental virology, and so he continued his education there, focusing mostly on RNA viruses in his research. His major work came in developing assays that were very sensitive and accurate in finding RNA viruses that could cause a disease found in drinking water.
During this time, Professor Hogan struggled to overcome problems that arose in his research, but more importantly learned to move past challenges with successes. Luckily, the senior graduate students at the lab advocated a collaborative method of science. All research was open for everyone to see and constructively critique, and in such an environment science tends to flourish. Professor Hogan explained, “Your successes might be bringing you down this one avenue, but you are very biased… Somebody else that is not as tied to the project might view something you may not have thought about because you are so singularly focused.” Hogan realized that every graduate student in the lab, regardless of academic proximity to his work, was eager to help improve his research, noting, “Some of the most creative solutions come from those that are the most distant from your project.” to After several years of hard work, Hogan developed an effective hybrid assay, which is a very useful investigative procedure often used in research to quantify the presence or functional activity of an entity, and completed his Ph.D. work. The real question, however, was where to move on from there.
Hogan was torn. On the one hand, he always wanted to go into academia, but he was hesitant to relocate as he had just begun a relationship with the woman who would eventually become his wife.
Hogan was torn. On the one hand, he always wanted to go into academia, but he was hesitant to relocate as he had just begun a relationship with the woman who would eventually become his wife. Forestalling his career in education, Hogan instead found a position at IDEXX working on developing detection assays. The company was making millions on detection assays, but needed to keep modernizing their products to be more specific or sensitive. Hogan’s new job would be to fix anything that was a problem. While his first job was not exactly based on the Ph.D. he earned, at the time he did not mind as he realized that he would have to be flexible as a new post-doc. He explained, “When you get out, you think ‘I have a PhD in virology so I am going to work on viruses, but you go out in the industry with a PhD and you do whatever they ask you to do.” However, despite the new environment, development was exciting but challenging.
Working in industry put Hogan in contact with many non-science problems he did not expect to face. Hogan’s first assignment took five months to complete, just to be cut and disregarded because it was too expensive to be sold. Another long project was delayed because the vials in which the product was being delivered were not large enough for the Dutch translation of their names and components. With such challenges constantly arising, Hogan explained that the worst parts of industry were “the things that were tied to science but non-science; timelines, budgets, etc.”
Working in industry put Hogan in contact with many non-science problems he did not expect to face. Hogan’s first assignment took five months to complete, just to be cut and disregarded because it was too expensive to be sold.
After years in the industry, Professor Hogan finally grew tired of facing the same problems over and over again. He started contemplating whether he should finally enter academia as originally planned. “The thing I kept hearing, was ‘You should be a professor’ and you hear it year after year, and that was the original goal,” he said. He quickly found a position teaching at Emmanuel College, and was given the responsibility to form a new Plant Biology course complete with a Lab component. Instead of a conventional Plant Biology Lab, he decided he had students developing bio-fuels and testing food from supermarkets to see if they were really non-GMO. His labs were so unique that the school sent him and his students to a state competition where their innovative labs won a certificate of distinction. With these accomplishments under his belt, he applied to teach at Boston College and was offered a position to teach the Cell Biology course.
Teaching at Boston College comes with its own challenges, but Professor Hogan said that the best part about working at this specific university is “the type of questions and the inquisitive nature of the students,” continuing on, “They help me learn too.”
Teaching at Boston College comes with its own challenges, but Professor Hogan said that the best part about working at this specific university is “the type of questions and the inquisitive nature of the students,” continuing on, “They help me learn too.” However, the one piece of advice Professor Hogan has for students finding their way at BC is to get involved. From his own experience, he knows first-hand how important it is to try out and expose oneself to various aspects of a career before committing one’s entire life to it. The greatest shame of all would be to not take advantage of the great opportunities surrounding us both on and off campus.