Laura Stephens

Laura Stephens, Ph.D. student, Immunology

Engineers nanoparticle vaccines

“Laura’s work has been focused on a new nanoparticle based approach toward vaccination against RSV, and her recently published study has shown that her nanoparticle vaccine succeeds, where others have failed, in a preclinical model. This work is critically important and hold great promise in lessening the burden of RSV in humans.” – Kevin Legge, Professor, Pathology

Hometown: Tigard, Oregon
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Steven Varga, Professor in the department of microbiology and immunology
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Interdisciplinary graduate program in Immunology, Fall 2022
Please describe your research: My graduate work focuses on vaccination efforts against respiratory syncytial virus, which is a major pathogen in children and infants. The goal of my research is to optimize and test a nanoparticle-based vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus. We have demonstrated that the vaccine can provide long-term protection against infection by this virus.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? Respiratory syncytial virus is a leading cause of illness and mortality in children and infants. Development of a vaccine would help reduce this burden in at-risk populations.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began conducting research immediately after starting graduate school at the University of Iowa.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research at the University of Iowa has allowed me to develop and grow my skills as a scientist. The highly collaborative environment allows me to learn from my colleagues in ways that will help me in my future career goals.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduation I plan to continue working on the research and development of vaccines and therapeutics in the biotechnology industry.
Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. A major benefit of the vaccine platform that I utilize in my graduate research is that it can easily be modified and used in a vaccine for COVID-19. We have collaborators here at the University of Iowa who have begun this work.

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