Earlhamite among 1st in nation to earn new fellowship from National Institute of Aging
September 22, 2020
Elizabeth Harper, a 2015 graduate from Earlham College, has been awarded a Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award from the National Institute on Aging.
The award will fund the completion of her doctorate at The University of Notre Dame and up to four years of postdoctoral research anywhere in the country. She is the first student to earn the award from Notre Dame, according to a press release from the university.
“Earlham prepared me very well for graduate school,” said Harper, who earned a degree in biochemistry and participated in two research projects as an undergraduate student.
“There are a lot of aspects of my Earlham education that I was thankful for when starting at Notre Dame,” she said. “The classes were challenging but rewarding. They helped me not only excel in my graduate courses, but also provided a solid foundation on which to base my current research. My comprehensive exams in my senior year at Earlham also helped me prepare for my milestone exams at Notre Dame, especially as I prepare to defend my upcoming dissertation.”
At Notre Dame, Harper studies ovarian cancer metastasis, and is seeking scientific explanations as to why ovarian cancer spreads more easily in older women than it does in young women. In her most recent research, which she expects to be published later this year, she examines the role of collagen in metastasis. Her postdoctoral work will focus on the aging immune system, with the ultimate goal of finding ways to make immunotherapy more effective in older patients.
“I’m not sure where I will be heading to do this research, but this grant opens a lot of doors to find the best lab for this project–and for my career,” she said.
When she began at Earlham, Harper’s career goal was to become a veterinarian, and she took biochemistry classes to prepare herself for that profession. A job-shadowing experience, however, changed her thinking.
“I decided that wasn’t the career path for me,” she said. “I still really enjoyed the classes in the biochemistry major, so I continued to pursue that major. It wasn’t until my senior year that I really started to consider graduate school. The research experiences I was able to do both on and off campus played a big role in what I’m doing now.”
At the conclusion of her sophomore year at Earlham, she participated in a physical chemistry computational project on campus with Earlham Professor of Chemistry Lori Watson. The following year she applied and was accepted as a research assistant on a biochemistry project at the University of Notre Dame, the same lab where she currently works as a doctoral student. After graduating from Earlham, she added even more research experience to her resume by working on a biology project at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“I honestly loved my entire Earlham experience,” Harper said. “The research experiences I was able to do both on and off campus played a big role in my decision to attend graduate school. All of those experiences have helped me achieve the success I’ve experienced at Notre Dame.”
Brian Zimmerman, director of media relations