Alexis Ellis

Alexis Ellis, Ph.D. student, Chemistry

Enhances vaccines


• Hometown: Starkville, MS
• Faculty mentor/advisor(s): Aliasger K. Salem, Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences; Mark A. Arnold, Professor, Chemistry
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Ph.D. student, Chemistry, June 2020
• Please describe your research: I am investigating the ability of nanoparticles made from different polymers, to boost the immune response in a heterologous prime-boost cancer vaccine model.  The first vaccine consists of protein loaded nanoparticles (prime), subsequent administrations (boost) will use a virus encoding a cancer protein, to determine which vaccine strategy delivers the greatest immune response against the cancer protein.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Cancer vaccines represents a significant chance to better a cancer patient’s life by offering similar if not better efficacy in terms of therapy while limiting the debilitating side effects associated with traditional cancer therapies. This is achieved by activating the patient’s own immune system to eradicate cancer cells but to leave healthy cells alone.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to participate in research during my first semester at the University of Iowa, because I have had prior experience with research from my master’s program at Jackson State University. This enabled me to get a head start working on projects that mattered to me.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research at the University of Iowa made me more successful, because it allows me to be involved in a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to science. This not only helps to reinforce key concepts from course work but allows me to make key connections to what I am doing to how it will affect patients’ lives.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to continue doing impactful research where I can contribute to improving the outcome and quality of lives of cancer patients.



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