In addition to scientists from Nigeria, Brazil and Sweden, Dom-Chima also is working with researchers in Haiti — as well as closer to home, at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
“She has the natural ability to work with people,” Biswas said. “Her biggest strength is to be able to handle difficult situations and people very effectively and come out on top. She works with a virus that is a menace worldwide and her global experience adds a new outlook to this health problem.”
Esther Biswas-Fiss, professor and chairperson of the Department of Medical and Molecular Sciences in the College of Health Sciences, said Dom-Chima’s research has the potential to play an important role in reducing the impact of HPV globally.
“Since HPV vaccines are variant specific, this information is critical,” Biswas-Fiss said. “In order for a vaccine to be effective, it needs to target the HPV variants that are present in that region.”
In another part of Dom-Chima’s doctoral project, she and Sam Biswas are working to develop a rapid PCR-based test to detect all HPV variants in patient samples. Such broad spectrum tests are not currently available.
Research with a global approach
It was an interest in pursuing research with a multidisciplinary approach that drew Dom-Chima to the University of Delaware after her graduation from Morgan State University with a degree in medical laboratory science. What she found was a program and mentorship that allowed her to explore research through a global lens.
“That is the beauty of the program, putting your spin on it,” said Dom-Chima, who hopes to be a professor after her doctorate is completed. “Not everybody has to do basic science research. You can take it and make it your own, and if I didn’t have that flexibility, I don’t think I would be in this research because it really incorporates global studies with molecular science.”
Biswas-Fiss said Dom-Chima’s dedication, perseverance and ability to stay calm in difficult situations are the kind of qualities any good researcher needs to be successful in their career. They also make her a role model for undergraduate and graduate students in the department, particularly those Dom-Chima works with as part of a diversity outreach effort to attract medical lab science and biotechnology students from traditionally underrepresented groups.
She also was a founding member of the Delaware chapter of Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) and, until recently, served on its executive board. The organization, open to graduates, undergraduates and science teachers, offers social events, mentoring and other outreach opportunities.
Dom-Chima said it’s important for students to realize they can have a life outside the lab. “When we all meet for seminars, we are always talking about our research, but what the GWIS wants to bring to this is research plus a chance to relax,” said Dom-Chima, who has an infant daughter. “Sometimes, we just come and talk about ourselves and about how we’re doing. Some people spend all their time in the lab. We want them to see there is more.”