HSRF Introduction: Louis Falo

Hello everyone! My name is Louis and I will be entering my fifth year at the University of Pittsburgh. I am pursuing a dual major in the biological sciences and philosophy as well as minors in chemistry and economics. In addition to my research, I love playing football and soccer; I still try to play on the weekends whenever I get a chance.

At the start of this fall term, I will be beginning my first year at the graduate school of Pitt Public Health. Specifically, I am focused on pursuing a Master of Public Health degree through the Department of Health Policy and Management. The Health Sciences Research Fellowship will help me pursue this by continuing to strengthen my research background while providing opportunities to develop my communication skills. Through HSRF, I am particularly focused on improving ways in which I can explain my research that are effective and efficient, while simultaneously being relatively clear and straightforward so that everyone can understand. This fellowship is a fantastic opportunity to improve these skill sets that will be useful for any health sciences related career. 

The project that I will be continuing through the Health Sciences Research Fellowship is focused on the development of skin-targeted vaccines. Specifically, I am working to stimulate immune responses against vaccine antigens by stimulating stress responses and danger signals within mouse and human skin. The stimulated danger signals here essentially “trick” the skin into responding to an inactive antigen as though it were an actual infection. Thus, my work is focused on delivering and investigating certain adjuvants and how they are able to elicit unique danger responses associated with effective immunization. Upon conclusion of my project, I plan to propose the identification of one or more skin-delivered immune stimulants that are capable of evoking danger signals to induce protective and hence more effective vaccines.

I am conducting this project in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Zhaoyang You. I feel that my research is particularly important because of its broader connection and impact on international vaccine delivery and access. Particularly, vaccine administration is traditionally perceived as an intramuscular delivery mechanism, ultimately overlooking alternatives for how we can more effectively deliver vaccines. By investigating other possibilities for vaccine delivery (specifically intradermal delivery in the case of my project), vaccines can become more readily available and potentially more effective global vaccination campaigns.

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