FEBRUARY 11, 2020 — If you summarize the past 10 years of Carol Chase’s life, it sounds something like this: Chase graduates from Brigham Young University—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,” Chase laughed. “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.”
Chase discovered her passion for immunology while volunteering in an autoimmunity lab. Now a Ph.D. candidate, Chase is looking for blood biomarkers to monitor the progression of multiple sclerosis.
“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,” Chase explained. “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 if they are going to have a relapse and if their disease is progressing or getting worse.”
Chase 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 said. “And I want to do it.”
Her son Teddy was born during Chases’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 said.
During the particularly difficult days, Chase considered leaving for a less demanding job. “I would look at the other people and think, I don’t fit in anymore,” she remembered. “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.”
Chase said she’s 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 said. “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, Chase is looking forward to a future in immunology research. Her dream is to work at the National Institutes of Health.
“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 said.
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