Once Evans received her bachelor’s degree she was able to attend the University of Wisconsin to pursue a master’s degree in bacteriology. She increased her knowledge of chemistry at the University and was even offered funding to pursue a PHD in Chemistry. In addition to receiving an opportunity to pursue a PHD she was also offered a position with the United States Department of Agriculture. Since she did not consider herself prepared to pursue a PHD in Chemistry, and since a PHD was not required for advancement in science at that time she decided to accept the position with the Department of Agriculture.
At the Department of Agriculture Wisconsin division Evans studied ways to improve the flavor of cheddar cheese. While working in the division she was able to coauthor four publications. While working in Wisconsin, Evans was appointed to a position at the United States Department of Agriculture Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington D.C. After accepting the position in D.C. Evans became anxious because of rumors that claimed that the division in D.C. did not want any women. Once she arrived at the division her fears subsided since the people she worked with seemed to not have any problems with working with a woman. While working in D.C. she discovered that Bacillus abortus and Micrococcus melitensis, bacteria found in freshly drawn milk, were closely related enough that both could potentially cause people to develop Undulant fever. Undulant fever or Brucellosis which it currently named, is an illness that involves chronic fever, fatigue, and many other debilitating symptoms. She published her research in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 1918.
Her research was initially met with widespread skepticism from many science and healthcare professionals since bacteria with different morphological characteristics were never considered to be closely related by bacteriologists. Even though her claims were contested by many people, her research would eventually be supported by many studies. After publishing her research on Bacillus abortus and Micrococcus melitensis she joined the United States Public Health Service Hygienic Laboratory, where she completed research on relevant world health issues such as the influenza pandemic and epidemic meningitis. While continuing her research on Bacillus abortus and Micrococcus melitensis, Evans contracted Undulant fever in 1922. She would suffer from the symptoms of the condition for many years before fully recovering. She was elected president of the Society of American Bacteriologists in 1928. This society would later become the American Society for Microbiology which honored her through creating an award in her name which is given to a person who contributes to the participation of women in microbiology. Toward the end of her career she researched immunity to streptococcal infection until she retired. She continued to be a strong advocate of the participation of women in science until she died in 1975.
By Grayland Godfrey
American Society for Microbiology. The American Society for Microbiology. www.asm.org. Accessed 19 Oct. 2016.
“Brucellosis.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/brucellosis/.
Colwell, R. R. “Alice C. Evans: Breaking Barriers.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 72.5 (1999): 349–356. Print.Evans, A. C. “Memoires”. 1963. Early Women of Science at NIH. Office of History National Institute of Health. IN 19 Oct. 2016.
Moreno, Edgardo. “Retrospective and Prospective Perspectives on Zoonotic Brucellosis.” Frontiers in Microbiology 5 (2014): 213. PMC. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.