Maddi Lensing

Maddi Lensing, PhD student, immunology

Harnesses the immune system

“Every day Maddi shows the same level of curiosity about our work and wants to continue exploring the next question. Even through the struggles of research, she has never let it dampen her positive attitude, and she continues on. She has gone out of her way to provide assistance and help to everyone in the lab and even those outside of our lab.” -Sam Connell, PhD student, immunology

Hometown: Solon, Iowa

Faculty mentor/advisor: Ali Jabbari, MD, PhD, associate professor, dermatology, Carver College of Medicine

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology, fall 2025

Please describe your research: I am studying the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the autoimmune disease, alopecia areata. Typically, Tregs help keep our immune system in check by preventing irrational attacks towards the body’s own tissues. The presence of autoimmunity suggests there may be defects in the Treg pool. I am working to identify these defects and am exploring how to harness Tregs as a protective tool during alopecia areata.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? Alopecia areata is a prevalent disease that will affect 6 million Americans within their lifetime. Having a better understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to this disease will allow for the development of more effective therapeutics.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was able to start research on day one of graduate school!

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Research has provided an outlet for me to discover what I am truly passionate about along with how to ask important questions and how to efficiently answer them. The University of Iowa has been a great place for me to develop my communication skills as I progress towards my degree. Being able to effectively share my passions with others in my field has brought me great joy.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?  After graduation, I plan to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship and then transition to a faculty position at an academic institution. I hope to focus my future research endeavors on Treg-based therapeutic strategies. I would also like to teach courses to the next generation of future immunologists.

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