The League of Science Superfriends are (in alphabetical order):
Dr. Julie Crudele, PhD
Dr. Julie Crudele has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Gene Therapy and Vaccines. She is now an Acting Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, where she has started her own lab to study immune responses to gene therapy and viral vectors. Throughout her scientific career, Dr. Crudele has focused on the interplay between the immune system and foreign proteins in the context of treating human disease. She is also an outspoken advocate for vaccines and takes every chance she's given to sing the praises of the HPV vaccines (go get one today!).
Dr. Thea Golden, PhD
Dr. Thea Golden is a clinically trained scientist. She earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy and PhD from Rutgers University. Her research focuses on maternal and fetal health studying the effects of maternal diseases and exposures. At the start of the pandemic, she joined a team of scientists and clinicians to study the effect of COVID-19 on pregnancy outcomes. She is also passionate about sharing scientific information with the public to empower people to make informed decisions about vaccination and risk mitigation strategies.
Dr. Leticia Kuri-Cervantes, PhD
Dr. Leticia Kuri-Cervantes is originally from Mexico City. She has a bachelors degree in Biology, followed by a Masters Degree in Immunology at Imperial College London, and a PhD in Biosciences at UNAM in Mexico. She is now a Senior Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. She decided to go into the Biology field at the age of thirteen with the hope to cure HIV/AIDS. She started her training on infectious diseases working with tuberculosis, followed by over 12 years of ongoing research on HIV/AIDS immunopathology. Her ample experience in biosafety landed her the responsibility of processing the first SARS-CoV2 samples collected at UPenn, contributed to the training of the staff now in charge of handling all COVID-19-related samples and has shifted her research to a new scope in infectious diseases. She has been involved in teaching and is very outspoken about infectious diseases, both HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, particularly towards the Latin-American community.
Dr. Peter Morawski, PhD
Dr. Peter Morawski received his Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. He is now a Staff Scientist at the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle where he studies how T cells and non-immune cells in human skin cooperate to regulate immunity and wound healing in health and disease. Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Morawski's primary focus has been on the study of autoimmune disease, being most interested to understand what happens in the body when the immune system mistakenly attacks our own tissue. Since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Morawski has been researching the human immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 vaccines, and was among the first to demonstrate that people can form lasting immune memory after recovering from COVID-19. In March of 2020 he went to Capitol Hill with the American Association of Immunologists to advocate for medical research funding, meeting with members of Congress to discuss the critical role for scientific research in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Shaun O’Brien, PhD
Shaun is a PhD trained Immunologist with a passion for communicating with the public about science. During his PhD training at University of Pennsylvania (2008-2013), he co-assisted in the founding of a science policy group, which actively participated in Capitol Hill Days to advocate for NIH funding in Washington DC. Following completion of his Immunology PhD training, he did a post-doctoral fellowship in Immunoncology, and characterized the functional immune response of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes in early stage human NSCLC. During his post-doctoral training, he was also a American Association of Immunologist (AAI) Public Policy Fellow and continued his advocacy efforts in meeting with Congressmembers and staffers around the continued importance of NIH funding. Following completion of his post-doctoral training, he is now employed as an industry biomarker scientist and characterizing the immune response in early Phase I-III oncology trials.
Maria Betina Pampena, PhD
She is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a proud graduate of University of Buenos Aires (go public education!), where she also obtained her PhD in Biological Chemistry working on cancer immunotherapy. She is now a postdoctoral trainee in the laboratory of Michael Betts in the department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, doing HIV research using non-human primate models. She processed and analyzed, together with Dr. Leticia Kuri-Cervantes, the first SARS-Cov2 samples collected at UPenn.
Dr. Jillian Whidby, PhD
Jillian's passion for virology began as an undergraduate studying adenoviruses. From there, she spent 2 years working in a Penn laboratory that studied HIV, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, Andes virus, and Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus (to name a few). She completed her PhD from Rutgers in 2012, where she conducted extensive biochemical and biophysical experiments toward treatment and vaccine design for hepatitis C virus, the same type of structural biology work that was used to design the mRNA vaccines for SARS-CoV-2. She left the lab to become a Medical Writer and now prepares work for clinical trials in rare diseases. She is also Mom to a 7 year old girl who is equally passionate about science and health.