Ph.D., Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
Advisors: Drs. Mary Estes and Robert Atmar
Rita finished her Ph.D. this past July, and her research dealt with the production of human monoclonal antibodies for norovirus, which was an uncharted area when she started. The Baylor group did this by immortalizing immune cells that produce antibodies from people previously infected with norovirus. They then isolated and checked the antibodies for binding to the norovirus capsid.
These antibodies show a lot of promise as reagents for detecting noroviruses in clinical, food, and environmental samples. Rita helped get the project off the ground, and the NoroCORE funding helped support the cost of materials needed to do so, as well as allow her to collaborate extensively with other groups developing novel techniques. Rita shared that this allowed her to have and independently manage her own project for the first time.
“It is unique to be in a field that has a group like this. This is an interesting community where you really get to communicate with people who are working on other pieces of the same puzzle; you get cross-fertilizaiton within the field.” Rita also felt that NoroCORE has given her a great avenue for networking.
Dr. Czako has started a post-doc with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) arm of the NIH, working on influenza and coronaviruses. Her laboratory focuses on the development of live attenuated vaccine candidates for avian and pandemic influenza strains. She would ultimately like to become an independent investigator, preferably with the government, and hopes to work at the CDC. She has an overarching interest in science policy and the “big picture” state of scientific research in this country.
“I want you guys to know that I am very grateful for this opportunity and it has definitely been a wonderful experience.”