Elliot Stalter

Elliot Stalter, Undergraduate student, Violin Performance

Seeks cures for blindness

• Hometown: Iowa City, IA

• Faculty mentor/advisor: Arlene V. Drack, Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

• What is your degree program and expected graduation date? B.M. Violin Performance, pre-medical track; my last semester of undergraduate studies will conclude in May 2021

• Please describe your research: We are working to find treatments for currently untreatable causes of pediatric blindness. Specifically, we are attempting to ameliorate the effects of several genetic retinal disorders using retinal gene therapy, a treatment which provides functional copies of mutated or missing genes via injection of the missing genetic material within viral vectors. Our current research is focused upon evaluating the safety and efficacy of various vectors for the treatment of Retinoschisis and Bardet-Biedl syndrome.

• In simple terms, why does this research matter? This research matters because it may lead to cures for blindness in children. Each study we conduct advances our understanding of the parameters within which retinal gene therapy proves effective, bringing it one step closer to becoming a viable option for patients.

• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began participating in research at the end of my first summer at the University of Iowa.

• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Although often viewed as an outlet purely for the application of scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills, hands-on scientific research is also the best catalyst for their acquisition.  Interacting with Dr. Arlene Drack and her colleagues allows me to observe the manner in which excellent researchers effectively discuss problems and develop potential solutions, a vital skill for success in almost any endeavor.

• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After concluding my undergraduate studies, I hope to attend medical school to pursue a career in academic medicine, a field in which I will be able to utilize the skills I have gained as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Iowa as a researcher, teacher, and clinician.

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