W&J senior earns National Institutes of Health fellowship

Created: May 17, 2019
Last Updated: December 17, 2019

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WASHINGTON, PA (May 17, 2019)—The National Institutes of Health (NIH) selected Washington & Jefferson College biochemistry major Ian Leighton ’19 as a post-baccalaureate fellow in the Immunity to Pulmonary Pathogens Section, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID).

Ian will work in the laboratory of Catharine Bosio, Ph.D., at the NIH Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont. where he will research the molecular basis of the pathogenesis of the infectious bacterium francisella tularenis, a potential bioterrorism agent which causes the fatal disease pneumonic tularemia. Tularemia is rapidly spreading and has a low lethal dosage. Through studying the disease, the lab is looking for ways to protect against francisella as well as understanding how this disease and others like it spread—and how to fight against them.

Landing a fellowship with the NIH is extremely competitive, and involves a lot of hard work. Ian looked into several labs before finding Dr. Bosio’s. Two internships in cancer research labs during his time at W&J, funded by the College’s Merck and Maxwell internship awards, helped Ian stand out, and his courses at W&J pointed him toward studying infectious diseases.

“Coming here, I thought I wanted to go to medical school right away, but through my labs and courses and my summer internship, I started enjoying studying biology and infectious disease,” Ian said. “When I took immunology and microbiology, I fell in love with it and wanted to know more about it.”

Ian continued on that path, working with W&J Professor of Biology Candy DeBerry, Ph.D., to learn even more about the field and find those lab internship opportunities he completed in the summers following his sophomore and junior years. His work with Dr. DeBerry and other faculty members at W&J made him an ideal candidate for both experiences.

“Every science lab I had at W&J taught me techniques that I found, when I went to my internships, other interns at the same level (of study) as me didn’t know how to do,” Ian said. “I could say I already know this stuff, and I didn’t have to spend my time training there. I could just do the work.”

As he continues on his career path, Ian is weighing his options between attending medical school, completing an MD program that would also allow him to pursue a Ph.D. so he can continue doing clinical research, or pursuing another degree through graduate school.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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