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Dr. Kaitlyn Lewis: Aging Research Will Help Us Live Better Lives

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: GSBS Alumni | Meet The Researcher | Biology of Aging | November 05, 2015

Dr. Kaitlyn Lewis knows that for most cancers, the old age becomes a risk factor. Her research looked at the relationship between longevity, cytoprotection, and cancer resistance.

“I think that by studying both you can have a real impact on making a person’s lifespan a healthier one, and potentially delaying certain age related morbidities or even eliminating them overall.”

Dr. Lewis is an alumnae of the Biology of Aging graduate program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She recently was given the Joe and Bettie Ward Award, a recognition of excellence in biology of aging research.

“The award is given to research that could have a real impact in the field, so it is quite an honor to receive an award,” she said. “Career wise, this award motivates me to continue aging research.”

She didn’t always want to become a researcher. Her plan was to go to medical or physician assistant school.

“When I graduated college, I said ‘No way would I do research’ and then a month later I was, and then two months into working at the National Institute of Aging I said ‘No way do I want to get a Ph.D.’ and then a year later I was applying to programs,” she said.

Dr. Lewis explained that she got interested in research in high school because she grew up next to the National Cancer Institute at Frederick campus.

“I was accepted in an internship there my junior year of high school and I loved working there. I did very basic stuff like learning how to grow cells and running western blots, but it was so different and I liked it so much more than anything I had ever done in a laboratory course in school,” she said.

This led her to apply to Penn State where she received a B.S. in Biology.

“By the time I graduated, I had no desire to do laboratory research whatsoever or to go to medical school. I had no idea what to do,” she said.” I applied to a fellowship with the National Institutes of Aging for post-baccalaureate research and took it. That’s where I really fell in love with research, especially in the field of aging.”

After working with Dr. Rafael de Cabo, she decided to apply to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“I picked the UT Health Science Center mostly because of the strong aging program and the amazing aging faculty at The Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. I had met many of the Barshop faculty like Dr. Holly Van RemmenDr. Yuji Ikeno, Dr. Olivia Smith, and my soon-to be mentor Dr. Rochelle Buffenstein before and I felt very welcomed there,” she said.

She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Calico Life Sciences, a company started by Google that focuses on basic biology of aging research.

She is passionate about aging research because she believes that it will help us live better lives.

“A lot of people think that aging research has the end goal of extending lifespan or someone finding a way to allow us to live forever, but my interest in aging research focuses more on helping people and animals live as functional as they can for most of their lives,” she said. 

This article is part of the "Meet The Researcher" series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. 

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