Postdoctoral associate awarded NIH fellowship

Dr. Yaima Lightfoot

Dr. Yaima Lightfoot, shown working in the laboratory of her mentor, Dr. Mansour Mohamadzadeh. (File photo)

Dr. Yaima Lightfoot, a postdoctoral associate in the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of infectious diseases and pathology, has received a three-year fellowship from the National Institutes of Health to support her research.

Lightfoot received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from UF in 2007. As a Florida Academic Scholar working in the laboratory of Dr. Robert A. Burne, she studied the role of two proteins in the physiology of the major causative agent of dental caries during that time. She then joined the UF Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences as an Alumni Graduate Fellow, shifting her focus to the study of the pathogenesis of Type 1 diabetes under the mentorship of Dr. Clayton E. Mathews. She received her Ph.D. from UF in immunology and microbiology in 2012.

“By pursuing a Ph. D. studying autoimmune diabetes, I redirected my career path to focus on the disease that has affected my mother since the age of 11,” Lightfoot said in a personal statement that was part of her fellowship application.

“Learning about her disorder as a graduate student, and understanding that there are mechanisms that could be targeted to afford protection, fostered my passion to eradicate this and other immune-related diseases, such as intestinal maladies,” she said.

She began working in the laboratory of her mentor, Dr. Mansour Mohamadzadeh, a professor of infectious diseases and mucosal immunology at the UF veterinary college and the UF College of Medicine, soon after receiving her Ph.D.

“In the short time that Dr. (Mansour) Mohamadzadeh has mentored me, his enthusiasm and expertise in the fields of inflammation and immunology have considerably impacted my career development,” she said. “Since joining his laboratory, I have familiarized myself with a range of sophisticated experimental animal models for colitis and colon cancer and have significantly expanded my technical skill set.”

The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellowship, in the amount of $159,328, provides up to three years of support for promising postdoctoral researchers who have the potential to become productive, independent investigators within the broad scope of biomedical, behavioral or clinical research.

Lightfoot’s research project will center on rebalancing intestinal pathogenic inflammation in intestinal disorders, including colon cancer using novel cellular and molecular approaches.

The fellowship is the fourth of its kind to have been awarded to the college since 1990.

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