Focus On highlights faculty, staff, students and researchers at the UC Academic Health Center. To suggest someone to be featured, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eleanor Powell, 24, is a third-year graduate student in pathobiology and molecular medicine and a graduate assistant in the lab of Jason Blackard, PhD, director of the Office of Global Health in the College of Medicine. Powell is a recipient of the Albert J. Ryan Fellowship—an honor awarded by UC, Harvard University and Dartmouth College to students interested in conducting research that will contribute new knowledge in the biomedical sciences. She was an undergraduate biology and chemistry major at Xavier University.
Why did you choose pathobiology and molecular medicine as a field of study?
"My story is probably a little different than most grad students. I did not know that I wanted to go to graduate school until March in my senior year of college. I originally thought I wanted to go to medical school, but I started the process of applying and it just didn’t really feel right or that it was the right thing to do for me. I thought I would work and see how that feels. Then Dr. Jason Blackard, who I work for now, came to my biology class at Xavier, gave a lecture there, and talked about his research as well as the program. It was like a light bulb moment. I thought, ‘I should be doing that,’ and so that’s how I found out about the program. The more I found out about it and the research, the more I felt, ‘this is definitely what I should be doing.’”
What’s your dream job once you finish graduate school?
"I am very interested in diagnostic microbiology and clinical biology and becoming the director of a clinical microbiology lab lab.”
Tell us about your work with Dr. Blackard in the laboratory
"Our lab works on viral co-infection. When one person is infected by more than one virus, we look at how the viruses interact inside the host. My work specifically deals with occult hepatitis B in HIV positive South Africans. Occult hepatitis B in hepatitis B in which the main protein used for diagnosis, hepatitis B surface antigen, is not detectable despite infection with HBV. The prevalence of chronic hepatitis B in South Africa is very high (8 to 12 percent), but occult HBV (also hepatitis B) is much higher in those who have HIV. In the U.S. we have more hepatitis C than hepatitis B, but in other parts of the world, including South Africa, hepatitis B is really more prevalent than hepatitis C.”
What do you do for fun?
"I love to knit—socks, blankets, gloves and all kinds of things. I knit constantly. I also go to a lot of dog shows. My mom has four dogs and so we go together.”
Tell us something no one knows about you.
"At my parents’ home, we have four dogs, two cats, a bird and two horses. That’s down from the maximum amount of pets in our house.”