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Student Spotlight: Wisler Charles

What is your area of research? 

Wisler Charles, Immunology and Infectious Diseases

As a Ph.D. graduate student in the Immunology and Infectious Diseases (I&ID) program, I am studying the immune response to cytomegalovirus infection in the brains of neonates.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

In my previous work as an undergrad I recognized how the field of immunology crossed into so many other fields. I knew a background in immunology would increase my opportunities to collaborate with others and could potentially translate into interesting results.

Why is this research important?

As the most common congenital infection in the US, cytomegalovirus (CMV) affects more than 5,000 children every year and leads to permanent neurological injuries such as hearing loss and developmental disabilities. Understanding the changing environment of the infected brain and the immune cells recruited to it may lead to future avenues for treatment of CMV infection and protection of proper brain development.

How has your background influenced your scholarship?

I have always known I wanted to go into the sciences but my experiences in undergrad research helped define my interests in the field immunology. Also, my experiences as a research associate in the immunology department at BD Biosciences Pharmingen gave me much insight into the importance of the immune system

What else has influenced your thinking as a researcher or scholar?

The main influencers I have had in my quest to research have been my extraordinary mentors. Without them, I would probably be doing research in my garage, lol… Another thing that keeps me going is the fact that I want to “fix something”. I want to have done something to help science and society move forward.

Why did you choose Cornell?

The main reason is the faculty. The impression they left me with during interviews was unforgettable. With access to extraordinary people and facilities, I knew I could thrive in this environment. And importantly, I knew coming here would broaden my pool of opportunities for when I graduated.

What’s next for you?

I am going into the world of entrepreneurship. I want to make a living advocating for science and the importance of basic/fundamental research. And since having great mentors has been such an important factor in my life, I hope to pay it forward by mentoring others.