“Tenacity” – A Scientist’s Greatest Strength – Nakisha Rutledge, Northwestern University Ph.D. student and ASIP Next Gen Researcher

Headshot“Once I set my mind to doing something. I find a way to get it done regardless of what may come my way”

Nakisha currently studies inflammation, a process by which the body’s defense system produces an array of substances and uses white blood cells (leukocytes) to protect against foreign organisms such as viruses or bacteria. Alternatively, under certain disease conditions, there are no foreign organisms to fight off, and normal tissue signaling can become dysfunctional. As a result, this triggers an autoimmune response causing the body to attack itself through inflammatory signaling. As a 4th year Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University in Dr. William A. Muller’s Lab, Nakisha’s research is specifically geared at identifying the molecular signals involved in inflammation. Prior to matriculating into graduate school she completed a B.S. in Biochemistry from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

“You can only become accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

-Maya Angelou-

Previous work in Nakisha’s lab explored how inflammation occurs in a series of steps in response to tissue damage and infection. Specifically, she investigates a critical step in the inflammatory process call “transendothelial migration”. During this process, leukocytes exit circulation through inflamed endothelium (inner surface of blood vessels). Sequential and coordinated activation and interaction of molecules on both the leukocyte and the endothelium are required for transendothelial migration. Thus, allowing leukocyte access to a site of inflammation to aid in tissue healing and recovery. Overall, the goal of Nakisha’s research is to identify the role of signaling molecules that coordinate transendothelial migration to use as potential therapeutic targets to treat an array of chronic inflammatory diseases.

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.”

-Booker T. Washington-

Nakisha considers her greatest strength to be tenacity and it defines her determination to one day become a professor running a successful biomedical science research lab.  Meetings like the 2017 Annual ASIP meeting at the Experimental Biology conference provide an outlet by which early-stage scientists like Nakisha can gain national exposure for their research. In addition, trainees get to take advantage of a wide variety of career development and networking opportunities.

“My most memorable experience at the 2017 ASIP Meeting would be the talk I gave in the mini symposium. It was the first time I had given an oral presentation at an international meeting”

Nakisha’s immediate plan after finishing her graduate studies is to secure a postdoctoral position in preparation of one day directing her own research lab.

Author: Bryan A. Wilson, Ph.D., M.B.A. – Research Fellow (UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine)

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