Vivian Eberly is one of 18 students in the inaugural class of the Undergraduate Immunology Program. Vivian Eberly is one of 18 students in the inaugural class of the Undergraduate Immunology Program.

Why major in immunology?

April 02, 2018
By Matt Windsor
Students from the inaugural class of the Undergraduate Immunology Program explain what attracted them to the major and UAB.

UAB’s Undergraduate Immunology Program, a joint program of the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, was created to “help students prepare for challenging careers in medicine, research and other science- or health-related fields,” says Louis Justement, Ph.D., the program’s director. It is one of the few of its kind in the country.

Learn more about the Undergraduate Immunology Program More than 100 faculty are actively engaged in immunology research at UAB, on topics ranging from AIDS to xenotransplantation. Half of them are already engaged with the program as both teachers and mentors, opening their labs to students.

The UIP launched in fall 2017, which means the first class of immunology majors is now moving through its second semester. What drew these founding students to invest four years in the study of the immune system, and UAB? Four UIP students share their thoughts. 

 


fd vivian eberly 1280"The Current Topics in Immunology class I am currently in has stood out to me. [It] helps me to better understand what is occurring in my own body as well as in others."

Vivian Eberly

Foley, Alabama


Why immunology: Personal exploration

I have struggled with immunodeficiency my entire life — a poor immune system, arthritis, type 1 diabetes and more. Not only do I want to learn more about what is occurring in my own body, I also hope to one day help others who are experiencing immune-related illnesses."Explore immunology careers

Giving back

"I hope to be involved in diabetes research and to one day practice endocrinology. I see how much of a difference my doctors have had on myself and others, and how much more there is to learn about diabetes and other immunologic diseases."

 

What's your favorite part of the immune system? "Macrophages. I would say B cells, but mine made antibodies against me." – Vivian Eberly

macrophage 2 700Macrophage. Photo courtesy NIAID.

 


 troy shirley 700"Every time you get sick there is a mini battle raging inside your body. I think that’s so cool!" 

Troy Shirley

Mobile, Alabama


Why immunology: The struggle

"The immune system is your body’s defense against the world. Every time you get sick there is a mini battle raging inside your body. I think that’s so cool! The Current Topics in Immunology course is really my first experience with anything focused solely on immunology. It’s interesting learning about the mechanisms by which the immune system operates, but also how this plays out on a larger scale in disease outbreaks and the development of medicines."Is immunology right for you? Find out.

Lab experience

"I worked at the Mitchell Cancer Institute in Mobile for about a year. My mentor, Dr. Steve McClellan, is studying stem cells in tumors. There are still stem cells present throughout a person’s organs when they are fully grown, and if one of these types of cells becomes cancerous, the cancer can be a lot harder to remove than in other cases. While I interned there, he was trying to develop a solution that would propagate the growth of these cancerous stem cells so they could be studied more easily."

 What's your favorite part of the immune system? "My favorites are eosinophils, because they deal with parasites." – Troy Shirley

 eosinophilsEosinophils. Photo courtesy of NIAID.

 


 kristine farag 700"It was an opportunity I could not pass up. The environment at UAB fosters a great sense of community where it is very easy to find a home."

Kristine Farag

Carmel, Indiana


Why immunology: Real-life inspiration

"During my junior year of high school, a friend of mine was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and was destined for a stem cell transplant. I began to research the disease and ask my father, a hematologist, about it. [Soon after] I spent a summer in an immunobiology laboratory conducting experiments investigating ways to prevent graft-versus-host disease, a potentially deadly complication of transplantation. Learning about T cell activation and targeting cellular pathways to inhibit them was fascinating. And I found a greater sense of purpose in what I was learning when I saw directly the devastating effects of GVHD in transplanted patients while shadowing an Indiana University hematologist, Dr. Jennifer Schwartz."

Home away from home

"A little over a year ago, I did not even know UAB existed. I only heard about it while I was applying for colleges because I planned to pursue a BS/MD program. However, when I was contacted for interviews, I visited the campus and was able to meet faculty, current students, and other prospective students. Upon acceptance to the program, I felt that it was an opportunity I could not pass up. The environment at UAB fosters a great sense of community where it is very easy to find a home."

What's your favorite part of the immune system? "The natural killer cell. It has the coolest name." – Kristine Farag

 natural killer cellNatural killer cell. Photo courtesy NIAID.

 


 

kathleen brook 700"I think it would be great to be able to work on research that affects me personally, and I felt immunology would be a good place to start."

Kathleen Brook

Huntsville, Alabama


Why immunology: Research interest

"I am pre-diabetic and have always found it to be fascinating. I think it would be great to be able to work on research that affects me personally, and I felt immunology would be a good place to start."

Career preparation

"I love research and feel I would be happy in a lab, but I’m currently pre-med and am also looking into PA [physician assistant] school."

 


 

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