When Amy Schade arrived at UNT in fall 2010, she wasn't sure whether she wanted to pursue a degree in biology or history. But after participating in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's National Genomics Research Initiative, her path was clear.
"In my freshman biology courses we had the opportunity to isolate, purify and sequence viruses that infect bacteria," Schade says. "It was my first exposure to research and I fell in love with it. It solidified my interest in biology."
Schade is one of 61 students selected nationally for the summer research program. In May, she traveled to the University of Wisconsin - Madison to work with Paul Ahlquist, professor of oncology and molecular virology. Her research focused on studying the mechanisms of virus replication and virus-host interactions, as well as human papillomavirus.
"I have always found diseases interesting, but it was really being part of the HHMI research experience that solidified my interests," Schade says. "Understanding how viruses integrate themselves into host cells and how they evade the immune system is crucial to developing treatments for various viruses."
Schade had the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research during her first semester at UNT because of UNT's participation in the HHMI's Science Education Alliance. As a member institution, UNT receives research and laboratory materials as well as training and support from HHMI, and UNT's biology department is able to introduce students to research earlier in their college careers.
After participating in the freshman biology courses sponsored by HHMI, Schade began working in the lab of Lee Hughes, assistant professor of biology. Her main project focused on the immunity of certain bacteria to viruses. Last fall, Hughes nominated Schade for HHMI's Exceptional Research Opportunities Program. The program links the resources of HHMI's Grants for Science Education program to provide selected undergraduate students with outstanding summer research experiences that encourage them to pursue careers in academic science.
In addition to her coursework and research, Schade also has been a member of UNT’s nationally recognized debate team and UNT’s Honors College. After graduation, Schade plans to attend graduate school and then work as a researcher.
"I would like to get my Ph.D. and then possibly work as a professor or a researcher at a government agency, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," she says.
Alyssa Yancey with UNT News Service can be reached at Alyssa.Yancey@unt.edu.