Explaining my Research
Our immune systems are simply amazing: we can fight off invaders of countless types, and our immune system even has memory to help prevent getting sick from the same disease twice. One of the key components of this immune memory are antibodies, which act as a molecular tag to alert the body of foreign invaders. New and different antibodies are constantly being created by cutting and pasting different sections of our DNA together so that we are ready to fight a variety of threats. Scientists today are using the latest tools to give new insight on how antibodies are made in response to different vaccines and diseases, how our immune system functions, and how we can discover new antibodies that will improve disease treatment.
I am using a new method called high-throughput DNA sequencing to study antibody development, with an eye toward sequencing different parts of the antibody at the same time so that we can get a more complete picture of how antibodies work. We have developed a technique to sequence tens of thousands of antibodies in a single day, and we are now using this technique in different ways to learn about how antibodies are made in response to different vaccines or diseases.
How did you become involved with “Present your PhD Thesis to a 12 year-old” project?
I was fortunate to participate in a number of K-12 outreach activities as an undergraduate student in Kansas, and it really impressed upon me the importance of younger students being able to see the scientific discovery process with their own eyes. I was glad to be able to join this program at UT and help out here in Austin.
What is your goal introducing such a project/topic to young students?
I would like to help students see how science is not just pages in a textbook and our understanding of the natural world changes faster than the book printers can keep up! I hope to give students a view of what scientific research is like today.
Also to paraphrase Dr. Greg Clark, because I couldn’t put it any better myself…
“My goal is to share my enthusiasm for scientific discovery with young people. I hope to provide Austin’s K-12 community with a real-life example of someone who thinks it’s just fine to love science and make a living engaging in it.”
About the Ph.D. Thesis
Gene Sequencing in the Immune System
Watching our bodies fight disease