Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?
After completing my undergraduate and master’s degrees at Indiana University Bloomington and Indianapolis, I chose to pursue my Ph.D. at Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) because of the excellent research opportunities and the possibility of continuing my graduate studies while maintaining my work at Lilly.
What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I developed a humanized mouse model for peanut allergy, which was critical to evaluate the efficacy of an allergen-specific inhibitor. Using this model, I demonstrated that the inhibitor can prevent IgE-mediated anaphylaxis and prevent mast cell activation after allergen exposure. A manuscript describing the model and these findings is now in revision at a high impact journal. I am very proud to be part of this effort to help improve the quality of life for peanut allergy patients, and I am excited to learn about the inhibitor's efficacy in human clinical trials.
I also generated exciting data through my work on an animal model of multiple sclerosis that could help reveal therapeutic targets for autoimmune inflammatory diseases and neuroinflammation.
My other favorite academic accomplishments are winning the abstract trainee award to attend the American Association of Immunologists for the last three years, receiving the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Travel Award to attend the FASEB Neuroimmunology conference, and receiving an IUPUI Travel Fellowship. I have enjoyed the opportunities to learn and network by attending and presenting at these conferences.
What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?
What I like most about Indianapolis is the people. Through my work at Lilly and studies at IUSM, I have met great colleagues and friends who are very friendly, supportive, and always willing to help. I enjoy spending time with them exploring the city.
Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.
My main Ph.D. project at the laboratory of Dr. Mark Kaplan focuses on defining the function of signaling and transcription factor STAT4 during the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis. I used conditional knockout mice to examine STAT4 function in various immune populations including T cells, myeloid cells, and dendritic cells. I demonstrated that STAT4 in dendritic cells is required for the development of the disease. Through different sets of adoptive transfer experiments, I further defined the role of STAT4 and interleukin-23 (IL-23) signaling in dendritic cells and how this signaling modulates disease development. I have ongoing experiments to define STAT4 regulated genes in EAE. Additionally, I performed a transcriptome analysis approach using publicly available gene expression data to define STAT4 target genes in dendritic cells in multiple sclerosis patients and how these genes regulate disease induction to examine if the findings in mice translate to humans.