By Kristian Kangas ’18

Ned Sherry ’13 discovered his fascination with infectious diseases in high school and has since turned his passion into a career at Adaptive Biotechnologies.

Throughout his journey—from Puget Sound to public health career—Ned has discovered the importance of self-exploration, persistence, and networking. And he loves what he does. (He has a back-up plan, of course…run a campus food truck for hungry Loggers!)

CES: What was your first step after graduation?

Ned: Starting the January before graduation, I applied for a number of science-y type fellowships and jobs in global health and bench science. This early preparation proved unsuccessful as none of these panned out. Not getting any of the positions actually worked out in my favor. Soon after graduation I synced up with a fellow ’13 Logger alumnus and was hired to work on a handful of interesting evidence-based systematic reviews and meta-analyses for a company called Spectrum. Working at Spectrum, combined with my failed applications, made me realize that the type of work I wanted to do in public health would require at least a master of public health.

CES: What attracted you to public health?

Ned: Since reading The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston in high school I had been fascinated with infectious diseases. I found the fact that one disease could radically impact society and that certain societies could be more sensitive to diseases very interesting. Because of this, I studied anthropology and biology at Puget Sound. The two majors complemented each other well— giving me the biological understanding of disease in combination with the societal impacts.

After college I was interested in working with the WHO, CDC or another governmental health agency or NGO but realized most of these paths required at least a master’s degree. I had the opportunity to attend the University of Minnesota and work with the Minnesota Department of Health—one of the best health departments in the world. While there, I worked with the foodborne illness division (the same group that helped identify the Chipotle E. coli outreach in 2015).

I also spent a summer in Puerto Rico with the CDC’s Dengue Branch and was lucky enough to work with a handful of stellar UMN researchers studying “one health” or “eco-system health,” culminating in a final thesis on Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and foodborne transmission. Importantly, this experience helped me realize that government work was not meant for me and inconsistencies in academic research funding left me unnecessarily stressed out.

CES: What kind of work have you done at Adaptive Biotechnologies and what do you like about the organization?

Ned: In 2016, I started on Adaptive’s clinical services team (through the same ’13 alum as Spectrum!) working on their new product clonoSEQ, which is our tool to measure minimal residual disease (MRD) in lymphoid malignancies. This role primarily included working with physicians and nurses who were using our technology to monitor disease in their patients. Because the product was relatively new, our team was instrumental in generating the initial procedure for sample requirements, test ordering and building the operations behind sample logistics.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to switch to a similar position with greater focus on Adaptive’s infectious disease projects. Since then, I have continued to manage these projects as they grow, as well as our academic collaborations. I also work on contracting and sample logistics for our pharmaceutical partners collaborating with an excellent internal team.

CES: If you could go back to your college days, would you do anything differently?

Ned: It’s a tricky question. One thing I often reflect on was doing too many different activities. Looking back, many (most) of these things didn’t pan out, or I realized I didn’t have any long-term interest in them.

In a lot of ways I wish had focused more on specific areas—committed more time to blank, or less time on blank. But this exploration is really the only way to figure out what you enjoy—or more importantly, what you don’t enjoy.

There’s absolutely pressure during college to pursue avenues that will help you acquire a job after school. But after completing the day’s on-campus job and homework, you are left with a chunk of time that is highly risk-free and is totally optimized for exploration. So my recommendation would be to discover interests. Read the fliers that are pinned up everywhere and go to a club meeting that sounds interesting. Go volunteer in Tacoma. Check out an ASUPS meeting.

Completely unrelated, but looking back, I would have set up some sort of food-truck just off campus on Saturday nights. I would have made a killing and paid off student loans quicker.

CES: What advice do you have for Puget Sound students?

Ned: Take advantage of all the resources you have available: test prep if you are trying to go to med school, resume help at the writing center, or even taking advantage of professors. Professors especially have a ton of interesting, relevant experience, have lived in the real world, and may even like talking to students. Almost all of this is free to students and disappears after you leave college.

Secondly, take advantage of your fellow students and alumni for exploring potential careers through job shadowing or actual work. Send the email. Make the call. Then send the second email when you don’t hear back.

In terms of general advice, identify and do the things that YOU want to do, not the things you think you should be doing.

Photos courtesy of Ned Sherry
© 2019 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound