From an early age, Andrea Salvador, PhD, dreamed of becoming a physician. But as she worked towards her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of the Philippines, she found herself enjoying lab experiments and benchwork and decided to pursue her graduate education in biomedical science and research. “The potential for discovering drugs or mechanisms related to disease that could have a widespread impact on patients’ lives is thrilling,” states Dr. Salvador.
Her interest in disease biology and the opportunity to train with world-renowned scientists led her to the University of Virginia in 2016 to purse a PhD through the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program (BIMS). She was attracted to BIMS due to its immersive curriculum which offers students the flexibility to participate in several research groups, spanning diverse specializations, as they consider their career passions and research goals. She ultimately landed in the lab of Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, due to the exciting research he was conducting on how the modulating immune system could be a viable therapeutic avenue for neurological diseases.
The Kipnis Lab moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 2020, where Andrea continued her research and completed her dissertation this past spring. She graduated in May 2023 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine with her doctorate in neuroscience.
Dr. Salvador’s dissertation focused on investigating the age-related alterations in the immune response after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Her research, in collaboration with the Kipnis Lab, indicates that changes in the aging immune system can influence the body’s capacity to function following SCI — an important discovery since the median age of individuals with SCI has increased in the past few decades. SCI can lead to debilitating effects on patients leaving them immobile, incontinent, dealing with extreme pain, sexual dysfunction, and spasms. The research may lead to new drugs that can improve repair after SCI, and highlights the study of neuroimmunology in treating neurological diseases.
Dr. Salvador is first author on the research paper “Age-dependent immune and lymphatic responses after spinal cord injury” published in the scientific journal Neuron. A recent press release by UVA Health’s Josh Barney on Drs. Salvador and Kipnis’ research garnered news coverage in over 100 media outlets nationally. Dr. Salvador is excited about her future in research with plans to become a professor with her own lab one day. “I’m excited to continue impactful research that illuminates some of the mysteries of biology, which may translate to life-changing medical treatments for patients,” said Dr. Salvador.
Filed Under: Research