Immunity: Defending the Castle

By Taylor Moon, Pre-College instructor

Taylor is a graduate student with Dr. Michael Elliott in the University of Rochester’s immunology department. She graduated from St. Lawrence University, majoring in biology with chemistry/Canadian studies minors. Prior to graduate school, Taylor acquired lab experience through a summer fellowship at SUNY Upstate and undergraduate research at St. Lawrence. After graduate school, she would like to teach at the undergraduate level. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her two horses, Ben and Duke.

After teaching a course on immunology for Summer Scholars last summer, I was able to reflect on what topics students found most interesting. One area I knew I wanted to include again was a section about flu infection and flu shots. Over the past semester, I have often found myself jotting down notes or relevant articles while listening to seminars; these notes are constantly manifesting into new ideas for how to teach students about flu.

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I think a better understanding of the flu shot and vaccines in general is the most important part of my class, and likely the most interesting. One thing many people don’t know is that the flu shot for a given year is designed and produced roughly one year ahead of time. Each vaccine is specific for just a few strains of flu which means some years we predict well what strains should be included, but other years our vaccination efforts are less effective. Notably, we are finding ways to make vaccination more successful and efficient, and one method is to move to live, attenuated vaccines. Cutting edge research on this topic is being conducted at the University of Rochester.

Part of what makes my class unique and exciting is that I am currently a graduate student at the University of Rochester, so I have an opportunity to bring students to research and facilities that are right here at the University. My goal is to teach students why this research is important, and why we need to do more research on not only the flu, but on other pandemic diseases.

Additionally, students in my class will have the opportunity to visit some of the facilities where this innovative research is happening for a behind-the-scenes look at medical research.

During my graduate career, I’ve found teaching to be the most rewarding aspect of my training. I enjoy designing activities that are exciting and encourage students to become more interested in science and maybe even careers in scientific research. Previous students of mine indicated that they may try to take more lab classes in college because they found the research I taught them to be very interesting. It made me really happy that these young students discovered an interest in research science because of my class.

Pre-College Programs allow students a real college experience by having advanced level, detail-oriented classes and having students live in a living/learning community. Much of what students see during their weeks on campus are what they will experience when they decide to attend college, and I think students will feel more prepared for the challenges they will face during their first year of college by attending this program.

Learn more about this course and others!

About the author

Ursula Balent

I'm the assistant director for Pre-College Programs. I’m a Rochester native and currently live in Hilton, NY. Pre-College Programs are designed for high school students in grades 9–12 to get a taste of the college experience through rigorous coursework and life-changing experiences. From this blog, you will hear from faculty, students, and staff directly involved with Pre-College Programs.

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