Leadership Profile

Graduate Earns Research Fellowship
from AHA

Danielle PillaDanielle Pilla ’10, a genetic engineering graduate who is currently a graduate student in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University Medical Center, has received an American Heart Association predoctoral fellowship. The prestigious fellowship is designed to help students initiate careers in cardiovascular and stroke research by providing research assistance and training, according to the Duke University website.

Pilla is a second year graduate student and works in the laboratory of Jörn Coers, Ph.D, assistant professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, where she studies immune cells and their response to bacterial infections. Last year, she discovered a particular pathway that has not yet been described as a method for cells to combat these infections. Her project is to understand the mechanisms of this novel pathway and its implications for controlling heart disease.
The predoctoral fellowship provides funding for Pilla’s research, which allows her to have greater freedom in pursuing different directions for her work. It also frees up more money for laboratory supplies and gives credence to her abilities as a serious scientist.

“This will help me in the future because getting funding is crucial for any scientist and I have demonstrated that I am capable of doing so,” said Pilla. She credited her education at Cedar Crest—and especially research in Professor Alan Hale’s global diseases lab—for helping to prepare her for her current position.

“Cedar Crest College was a great institution first and foremost for its research opportunities. These opportunities opened up many doors for me including the opportunity to work in Dr. Michael Root’s lab at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia,” she said. “It also exposed me to conferences where I met individuals I now work with at Duke University. Overall, CCC prepared me for the work involved in graduate school and because of this, has aided in my goal of becoming a principal investigator one day and running my own lab.”