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How LLS Fellows Serve

LLS fellow conducts laboratory demonstration.
LLS fellow works at night in the U.S. Virgin Islands on an Epi-Aid response.
LLS fellow works in lab.
LLS fellow conducts water sampling during Epi-Aid investigation.
LLS fellow works in the U.S. Virgin Islands on an Epi-Aid response.

LLS training is largely hands-on and experiential. Fellows primarily perform assignments within their host laboratories as a service to the agency and other public health labs by supporting outbreak investigations, leading Lab-Aids, supporting EIS officers on Epi-Aids, or providing laboratory expertise for large-scale public health responses.

LLS fellows provide on-the-job service to CDC, state or local public health laboratories, as assigned.  In their daily work, fellows support the mission objectives of their host labs through hands-on service, whether through research contributions, conducting risk assessments, supporting laboratory operations, or other routine, high-performance activities.

Examples of fellows’ on-the-job service include:

  • Developing Quality Management System materials for the population-based HIV impact assessment in Zambia
  • Creating laboratorian competency assessment procedures for inactivating pox and rabies viruses
  • Training laboratory scientists in Uganda on proper specimen handling and processing for Ebola testing
  • Providing technical assistance to the World Health Organization for the development of global guidance on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity
  • Designing and overseeing the implementation of new laboratory facilities and operations in New York City to provide rapid, point-of-care testing for STDs (the Chelsea Express “Quickie Lab”)
  • Conduct cutting-edge applied public health laboratory research, such as developing new bioinformatics tools to investigate bacterial meningitis outbreaks or investigating the spread of hard-to-treat, antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • As a field assignee, leading the laboratory component of a Legionella outbreak investigation in on behalf of the fellow’s state public health lab
  • Investigating infectious and chronic diseases, environmental and occupational health threats, birth defects, and developmental disabilities, depending on the mission objectives of the host site laboratory
  • Always being ready to respond to emerging public health threats, like Zika virus, measles, and COVID-19

LLS fellows frequently collaborate with EIS officers on field investigations and outbreak responses. Whenever possible, the LLS and EIS programs combine the laboratory and epidemiologic expertise of their fellows so these disease detectives can apply a comprehensive approach to complex public health issues.

Examples of fellows’ providing lab support for Epi-Aids include:

  • Providing field sampling support for norovirus outbreak
  • Investigating the spread of rabies among the mongoose population in the US Virgin Islands
  • Investigating the spread of adenovirus among outpatients of a substance abuse treatment center
  • Determining the source of Burkholderia psuedomallei contamination in freshwater aquarium animals and plants
  • Providing critical laboratory support for patient testing and diagnosis during a leptospirosis outbreak in the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Onsite sampling and testing for Escherichia coli contamination at chicken farms identified as the source of an outbreak

LLS fellows may have the opportunity to lead a Lab-Aid. A Lab-Aid is a mechanism for providing rapid, short-term support to state, local, and federal public health labs for critical laboratory testing or operational needs. During a Lab-Aid, an LLS fellow assumes a leadership role, supported by a CDC subject matter expert, to address an urgent public health concern.

A Lab-Aid may involve:

  • Conducting lab safety risk assessments
  • Advising on lab quality issues or systems to help improve the reliability and reproducibility of lab data
  • Standing up or strengthening the lab component of a surveillance program
  • Assisting with bioinformatics or advanced molecular detection (AMD) workflows or analyses
  • Providing lab expertise or assistance for outbreak investigations
  • Capacity building or laboratory operations support

LLS fellows have led and supported several Lab-Aids since the launch of the Lab-Aid service in 2017. Specific examples include:

  • Providing training on rabies diagnostic assays to partners in the New York City Public Health Laboratory
  • Helping partners in the Hawaii Public Health Laboratory bring on new assays to detect Legionella
  • Responding to a Legionella outbreak in New York City
  • Providing capacity building support to public health labs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after hurricane damage destroyed their facilities
  • Advising multiple laboratories on their quality management systems and helping to implement sustainable and efficient lab quality procedures

LLS fellows provide service to CDC and support large-scale responses to protect public health. As key responders during large-scale public health responses, fellows are highly valued and sought after given their unique training and expertise. LLS fellows’ commitment to public health is amplified through field deployments, service to state and local laboratory jurisdictions, support for CDC’s laboratories and Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Some of the ways LLS fellows have supported large-scale public health responses include:

  • During the Ebola response, LLS fellows provided support to international ministries of health for laboratory operations and logistics support for specimen handling
  • During the Zika response, an LLS fellow partnered with public health officials in Columbia to streamline laboratory operations by developing and implementing streamlined sample processing and tracking systems
  • Serving in a leadership role during CDC’s measles response in 2019
  • LLS fellows partnered with health officials in Ghana to support the global polio eradication efforts
  • During the COVID-19 response, the LLS program shifted the focus of all LLS fellows’ training and service activities to fully support CDC’s response efforts to stop the spread of the virus. Fellows deployed directly to state and local public health labs to provide technical and operational support, while others deployed with epidemiologists to help facilitate patient contact tracing. Several fellows deployed to quarantine areas and stations to support specimen handling, tracking, and testing logistics, while other fellows remained at CDC to provide technical expertise for reference testing or assume leadership and response coordination roles in the agency’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC).

See also the visual timeline representing some of the program’s key milestones.

Where LLS Fellows Work

Assignments are determined for each year’s incoming class according to the best possible match between a fellow’s education, skills, and experience and the host laboratory’s needs. To see where current fellows are assigned, please visit the Meet Current and Past Fellows web page, and click on the buttons to view each class.