Student Spotlight: Candice Limper

Candice Limper

November 18, 2019

Candice Limper is a doctoral student in biomedical and biological sciences from Ridgecrest, California. After earning her undergraduate degree at California State University, Chico, she chose to pursue further study at Cornell with a concentration on immunology and infectious disease.

What is your area of research, and why is it important?

As a member of Dr. Avery August’s Lab, we are working to understand the importance of the mitochondrial replication in immune cells. To do this, we study the polymerase that replicates mitochondrial genes. We are using a mouse model where this protein does not replicate mitochondrial DNA accurately. This error-prone DNA polymerase causes more mutations that encode bad, or dysfunctional, proteins. Mitochondrial proteins that cannot work correctly prevent mitochondrial energy production. My goal in this project is to determine whether having an abnormal mitochondrial DNA polymerase alters immune cell function, proliferation, and the ability to fight off pathogens.

What are the larger implications of this research?

The larger implications of this research could be identifying a potential target for immunotherapy.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I first formally learned about immunology as an undergraduate student. During this time, I took an intro to immunology course. I was fascinated by how much energy immune cells put towards keeping us healthy. Wanting to learn more about energy production, I decided to study “the energy powerhouse of the cell,” the mitochondrion. Here, I learned that this organelle is vital to almost all of our cells and, when it is not functioning correctly, they can be negatively affected. As a Ph.D. student, I wanted to merge my two research interests: immunology and the mitochondrion. I feel very fortunate to be able to pursue research in the August Lab.

What is the impact of your fellowship on your research or decision to attend Cornell?

I was awarded a scholarship from the Alfred R. Sloan Foundation’s Minority Ph.D. program. Because of this award, I have had the opportunity to participate in professional development activities which have contributed to my success in graduate school thus far. This funding opportunity has also allowed me the opportunity to pursue my research interests.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I like to write blogs to help potential students navigate through higher education on a website I created called Limper Science. When I am not doing that, I enjoy science communication through podcasts. Here, my work helps the general public learn about science. I work with Locally Sourced Science, a local radio station to produce interviews with scientists. More recently, I started a podcast called Excellsior, where various topics in immunology are covered.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

First, I was inspired by the professors and graduate students that I met during the interview process. During this time, I learned some of the research they were doing on and off the Ithaca campus. Second, I found that my prospective graduate program, biomedical and biological sciences, to be flexible in terms of coursework and TA requirements. Lastly, I was attracted to the small-town vibe that Ithaca has to offer while also being relatively close to major cities.