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Chemical and Biosciences grad awarded UTSA scholarship for research on autoimmune disease

November 3, 2014

Photo credit: UTSA

Photo credit: University of Texas at San Antonio

A graduate of Red River College’s Chemical and Biosciences Technology program has been awarded a prestigious doctoral scholarship from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), to help further her research on the mechanisms of autoimmune disease.

Julie Tudyk, who graduated from the program (now called Science and Laboratory Technology) in 1999, received a $23,000 doctoral scholarship from the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) at UTSA — funds that will help advance her research on Erk2 signaling in lymphocytes and autoimmunity.

Tudyk is particularly interested in understanding mechanisms of disease and developing treatments. While still at RRC, she was named a gold medalist as the highest-ranked student in her graduating class. The education she received here paved the way for her job as a senior microbiology technician at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg, where she spent eight years identifying unknown pathogens with the Foodborne and Enteric Diseases Program.

While at the NML, Tudyk developed a passion for research, later moving to Texas to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology at UTSA.

As an undergraduate student, she conducted research focusing on a pathogenicity island of the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which causes tularemia. She also enrolled in courses through the UTSA Honors College and completed her honours thesis.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2011, Tudyk began her doctoral study, conducting immunology research under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Forsthuber, who holds the UTSA’s Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones endowed Chair in Biotechnology.

Her focus is on Erk2 signaling and its role in B cell immune functions. As scientists gain a better understanding of the signaling pathway, they will better understand the development of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, she says.

“Immune cells must communicate with each other all the time, like a symphony,” she told the UTSA’s communications staff. “These are highly coordinated interactions. If the cells don’t coordinate and respond correctly, it breaks down the whole system.”

Click here to learn more about Tudyk’s award and her research, and here for more on RRC’s Science and Laboratory Technology program.