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In this new Vital Signs series, we feature graduate student Elizabeth Minor in the Ehre lab. Inspired by an immunology and cancer immunotherapy class during her time at the University of Virginia, Minor now studies viral challenges like SARS-CoV-2 and cystic fibrosis at the prestigious Marsico Lung Institute/UNC Cystic Fibrosis Center.

Elizabeth Minor is a PhD student in the lab of Camille Ehre, PhD, who is an assistant professor at the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Marsico Lung Institute/UNC Cystic Fibrosis Center. In the lab, Minor studies in vivo asthma models and how they respond to viral challenges like SARS-CoV-2.

Q: What were your interests when young, and how did you get into biomedical science?

A: When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up, except I thought I’d be pursuing a career in marine biology. I was obsessed with aquariums and sea life when I was little, so that was my plan for years. In college, I discovered a new passion for molecular and cell biology, and so marine science just became a hobby for me via scuba diving.

Q: Why did you choose UNC and the lab you are in?

A: I took an incredible immunology and cancer immunotherapy class at the University of Virginia, where I completed my undergraduate degree. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to pursue immunology. I came to UNC for graduate school because the environment is very collaborative and curiosity-driven, and there are great opportunities given that UNC is part of the Research Triangle.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I have been in Dr. Camille Ehre’s lab for almost a year, with my major project being in vivo asthma models with viral challenges like SARS-CoV-2. I am also involved with research involving viral challenge with cystic fibrosis, a major disease studied by the Marsico Lung Institute. Dr. Ehre’s lab is a fun environment to do research in. She tailors her mentoring style to my future career aspirations, and cares about me as a person and a young scientist, pushing me to better every day.

Q: What inspires you the most about working in your field?

A: What inspires me most about studying lung immunology is that there is so much to learn, and it is a hot topic right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I value that the research I am doing could contribute to translational and clinical research down the road, and could have a real-world impact, so I am committed to doing rigorous, good science.

Q: What are your goals after earning your PhD?

A: I hope to go into industry after my PhD, ideally working for a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company doing cancer immunology research or drug development.