Amaris Cardenas was awarded was awarded an NIH F31 individual predoctoral Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in November of 2021. Amaris is a fifth year PhD Candidate in Alison Criss’s lab in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology who is pursuing her PhD studies in the Microbiology Graduate program. Research in the Criss lab focuses on the mechanisms that drive infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae, an obligate human pathogen that causes approximately 78 million cases of gonorrhea worldwide every year. With a rise in antibiotic resistance, a lack of a protective vaccine, and the inability to clear natural infection or mount protective immunity, gonorrhea has become an urgent global health concern. Amaris’s work is focused on investigating how Neisseria gonorrhoeae exploits the human immune system to evade immune cell killing, in order to discover novel methods to combat this pathogen. Specifically, she is evaluating the role of lipooligosaccharide sialylation in interactions with primary human neutrophils and the contributions of this interaction to the mechanism by which N. gonorrhoeae enhances survival from neutrophils and reduces neutrophilic oxidative burst. When asked what motivates her science, Amaris indicated that she is motivated by a curiosity to discover novel mechanisms driving bacterial infectious diseases with a goal of helping the individuals greatly affected by them. As a first-generation Latina, she is devoted to fostering an inclusive, creative community within her program. She also works beyond grounds through outreach efforts. Amaris’s future goal is to become an independent scientist leading a research group that specializes in infectious diseases and public health.