Carol Chase, Cell and Molecular Biology Ph.D. Candidate
By Lauren Moriarty
If you summarize the last ten years of Carol Chase’s life, it sounds something like this: Carol graduates from Brigham Young University in Hawaii, serves a church mission in Canada, works as a lab technician at Pioneer Flour Mills, earns her M.S. at UTSA, begins her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at UTSA, gives birth to a son, and continues her doctoral work. "My path to getting here was not very direct," Carol laughs. "I was a gravy and flour tester. It was a good job and paid well and had good benefits, but I wanted to do something more and do more research."
Carol discovered her passion for immunology while volunteering in Dr. Forsthuber’s autoimmunity lab. Now a Ph.D. candidate, Carol is looking for blood biomarkers to monitor the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). "Most people can spend the majority of their life in what you would call remission with little symptoms. They are always at risk of having a relapse," Carol explains. "There are no medical tests for that and no way of monitoring that. I’m trying to find proteins in the blood that you can test in patients that will give you an idea of if they are going to have a relapse and if their disease is progressing or getting worse." Carol hopes that her findings will help MS patients experience a better quality of life. "I always tell my mom, ‘This is important and someone has to do it,’" she says. "And I want to do it."
Teddy was born during Carol’s second year in the program. "I remember being up at 3 a.m. with a crying baby and then having to do a presentation that morning," she says. During the particularly difficult days, Carol considered leaving for a less demanding job. "I would look at the other people and think, I don’t fit in anymore," she remembers. "But I worked through it. I love what I’m doing and I think it’s important. I just kept showing up and doing it." Carol is grateful for the support of UTSA’s RISE community, a federally funded program that provides financial and professional development support for underrepresented students. "They gave me a community that I belong to," she says. "When I didn’t necessarily feel like I fit in that well, I always fit in there."
With the end of her doctoral journey in sight, Carol is looking forward to a future in immunology research. Her dream is to work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "I want to become someone that my son would be proud of and look up to, which sometimes means making sacrifices and doing difficult things so he can see that education is important, serving other people is important, and it’s worth making those sacrifices," she says.