Title: Research Scientist, Laboratory of Adjuvant and Antigen Research
Question: What inspired you to pursue a career in science?
Answer: I grew up always being interested in science with the intention of being a medical doctor. I had my first scientific laboratory experience in high school while working at a Head and Neck Cancer laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. I worked directly with a Research Associate who was always so patient and willing to teach me any of the techniques that were being performed in the lab, including tissue culture and microscopy. Laboratory experiences in college and in summer undergraduate research programs solidified my desire to pursue a career in science. My graduate school advisor, Dr. Karen Anderson, has been an influential mentor and continues to be so today.
Q: What advice do you have for younger girls who want to pursue research careers?
A: Look for and pursue scientific opportunities – start with volunteering to work in a laboratory at your local college, university, or hospital (that’s how I started). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and figure out how to answer them, because that’s one of the basics of science. Lastly, reach out and ask for help and mentorship. There are people out there (especially female scientists) who are willing to guide and help you succeed in a career in science.
Q: What has been a highlight of your time working with MHRP?
A: Working at MHRP has been a wonderful experience while working on the pursuit of an HIV vaccine and more recently a COVID vaccine. Coming from a background in enzyme kinetics and Biochemistry, there was a steep learning curve in pursuing other fields including Virology, Immunology, and more recently Adjuvants. However, I have been fortunate to have coworkers (former and current) at MHRP and in the Antigens and Immunology Section who have helped me grow as a scientist and expand my knowledge tremendously. I am lucky to have found another mentor in my Laboratory Chief in LAAR, Dr. Mangala Rao, who has aided in my growth and encouraged me to develop and implement projects that I want to pursue. I’ve also had support from MHRP leadership, who have been incredibly encouraging. Recently they gave me the opportunity to co-author a review of HIV vaccine development with them, which was a great experience.
Q: What kind of projects are you currently working on?
A: I am currently working on utilizing an assay that helps us look at the initial interactions between the virus (HIV) and the host cell, and trying to find antibodies that can block this interaction which may aid in the prevention of infection. I am also using a humanized mouse model to look at the pathogenesis of HIV infection, as well as perform vaccine studies using the Army Liposome Formulation and other adjuvants.
Q: What is your background prior to joining MHRP?
A: I graduated from Wellesley College with a Major in Biological Chemistry and a Minor in Computer Science. I joined the Laboratory of Chromosome and Cell Biology at Rockefeller University as a Research Assistant before going on to graduate school. I received a M.S., M.Phil., and a Ph.D. in the department of Pharmacology at Yale University under the guidance of Dr. Karen Anderson. I joined MHRP in the Laboratory of Adjuvant and Antigen Research (LAAR) under the Antigens and Immunology Section at MHRP as a Postdoctoral Fellow.