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Cassidy Daw: Learning Immunology From Scratch

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Meet The Researcher | Infection, Inflammation & Immunity (Triple-I) | Immunology and Infection (M.S.) | April 16, 2018

Cassidy Daw is a 2nd year Master’s student in our Immunology and Infection program. She will be joining the Integrated Biomedical Studies Ph.D. program in Infection, Inflammation & Immunity this fall.

Daw is originally from El Paso and attended Baylor University, where she majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry. When she was around the age of 9, she was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, setting the stage for her science career.

“I was a kid undergoing all this harsh treatment, but in a way, this was my first exposure to science. No one in my family is a scientist or is even remotely involved in the field. That diagnosis was not a mistake and I think that it inspired me to pursue research. I believe that everything happens for a reason,” she said.

She explained that she wasn’t sure that she wanted to pursue a Ph.D. immediately after graduation because she had never done research before, but she knew she wanted her career to relate to cancer.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. I’ve always known that I wanted to make a difference in the treatment process,” she said. “Several people in my family have been affected by cancer so I know how exhausting the treatment and recovery process is. I knew I wanted to do something about that from a very young age.”

One of her professors at Baylor University recommended that she apply to the UT Health San Antonio Master in Science in Immunology and Infection program.

Currently, Daw is working in Dr. Paolo Casali’s lab which studies the role of epigenetic modifications in the antibody response. Her project focuses on the role of microRNAs in regards their modulation of the antibody response, particularly their role involving class-switch recombination to IgA.

“IgA is it is the most abundant antibody produced and is found primarily at mucosal surfaces. It serves as the first line of defense against pathogens in the gut, respiratory tract and urogenital tract,” she explained.

Daw said that one of the reasons she is applying to graduate school is not just her love for science but that she really enjoyed her time in the master’s program.

“I love my labmates and the relationships we’ve built. It’s been so much fun to be around people who share the same excitement about what we do,” she said. “We’re addicted to knowledge and to the potential of making discoveries.”

She also liked that the program allowed her to learn everything from scratch.

“The program does a great job ensuring that everyone starts from the same place. It didn’t matter that I had never taken an immunology course before,” she said. “The professors are incredible and any PI is willing to talk to you about your project. The first year is all coursework, the second year is when you are working in the lab full time and working on your thesis----it gives you a feel of what being a Ph.D. student is like.”

In the future, Daw would like to be a full-time professor that teaches and has a lab focused on cancer research.

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