“To me, there is an importance to answering clinically relevant questions. Here at UT Southwestern, I am a part of a translational research center, where I can watch the research we do go from bench to bedside.”
Biomedical Engineering Program, recent graduate (2012)
Mentor: Ellen Vitetta, Ph.D.
Allison Case grew up in Houston, earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and in typical Texas style, she always had big goals. The daughter of a mechanical engineer, she wanted to figure out how the world worked and how to make it better. While at UT Austin, she spent four years immersed in research, learning to create testable questions, and experiencing the satisfaction of devising a strategy that gets a valid and translatable answer. She was hooked.
“I chose a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering because I wanted the questions I asked to be relevant and compelling. What is more compelling than improving someone’s quality of life by addressing issues that affect people’s lives? I wanted the results of my research to directly translate to patient care.”
Allison works within a multidisciplinary team in the Cancer Immunobiology Center consisting of immunologists, microbiologists, and engineers. Her mentor, Dr. Ellen Vitteta, is director of the center, which focuses on translational research. As a graduate student, Allison has designed and synthesized libraries of synthetic proteins, called peptoids, and developed a novel platform to identify peptoids that mimic the structure of viral proteins, such as HIV or HCV. By identifying the ‘right’ peptoid bound by an antibody against the viral protein, the peptoid, when formulated for injection, can induce protective antibodies against such viruses. Her project fullfuills her ultimate goals as it has the potential to lead to an entirely new type of vaccine that could have a far-reaching impact on the lives of others.
“An important part of being a successful biomedical engineer is equal mastery of engineering and biology. UT Southwestern gives me exposure to engineering, biology and medicine in one place. I am a part of a multidisciplinary team here, and for me it was important to interact across fields to solve problems. Here I strengthen my understanding of the body and learn from experts in the fields.”
Allison received the Southwestern Graduate School Academic Excellence Award in 2009 and was nominated for the Graduate School’s 2011 Ida M. Green Award that recognizes Academic Excellence and Community Service.