Editor's Note: This story has been updated. The original version said adaptive immune diseases. That has been corrected to autoimmune diseases. 

Ball State graduate student Ethan Pickerill spent last summer in a lab in Bethesda, Maryland as Ball State’s first ever intern for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 

“I’m interested in understanding disease and identifying ways in which we can treat disease,” Pickerill said. “I have learned a lot of new information for sure.”

Pickerill said his internship with NIAID, a government agency that researches diseases and the immune system to have a better understanding of biological systems, was highly competitive and involved multiple interviews with scientists. 

At his internship, Pickerill aided in bench research, a type of research that is primarily within a laboratory setting, where he studied cellular signaling within an immune cell.  

“We looked at some of the molecular mechanisms that underlie some autoimmune diseases,” Pickerill said. “Very long-term goals for the research are that it can shed light on druggable targets for autoimmune disease.”

Pickerill also said his internship gave him opportunities to meet with many well-respected professionals in the biological field. 

“I was required to give group meeting, as well as present a poster at the culmination of my NIAID internship,” Pickerill said. “This, paired with interacting with numerous brilliant post-doctoral fellows and staff scientists, has facilitated my growth as a presenter and has made me better able to critically evaluate other scientific work.”

As an undergraduate student, Pickerill earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and researched the pathogen fungi Candida albicans, which is targeted by the immune system. He worked closely with Doug Bernstein, an assistant professor of biology, for almost three years as a bench researcher. 

“[Pickerill] is an enthusiastic scientist who enjoys thinking about and performing molecular biology experiments,” Bernstein said. “He treats science as a puzzle.”

Currently Pickerill is continuing his research at Ball State, and he is seeking a full-time biotechnology or molecular biology position. 

Contact Abby Speitel with comments at alspeital@bsu.edu.