Paige Kulling: what she learned from her PhD experience

Paige KullingBefore leaving for her postdoctoral fellowship in California, Paige was interviewed about her experience as a graduate student at UVA. During her PhD, Paige authored several publications, presented at international conferences, received multiple grants, and graduated in 4 years. Supportive mentorship was one aspect of graduate school that Paige attributes to her success. She was in Dr. Thomas Loughran’s lab, which turned out to be a very good choice for her. It’s a large lab, where she was able to work closely with other faculty members in the lab, but still benefit from the wealth of clinical experience offered by Dr. Loughran. Due to the lab’s size, every member of the lab had valuable expertise on a multitude of techniques and areas of research. This allowed Paige to pursue multiple projects in different areas of research from virology to metabolism to vitamin D. By pursuing multiple projects at once, when two of them failed, she still had a viable project to concentrate on for her dissertation. This resulted in a lot less wasted time than if she had waited until each project was completely exhausted before beginning the next one.

Paige believes that her passion for her project motivated her to continually design experiments and collect data. She has always been passionate about translational research and she knew she wanted to identify a project that could have clinical impact. Her final project revolved around the effect of vitamin D on cancer-driven inflammation. The use of vitamin D as an anti-cancer agent is something that is being evaluated in clinical trials for other diseases but was previously unstudied for the leukemia that was the focus of her dissertation. By the end of her second year, she had a second author paper and by the end of her fourth year, she had two first-author papers and another on the way as well as several second author publications.

Paige’s ultimate career goal is to direct a clinical microbiology laboratory and she will be starting a clinical microbiology fellowship at UCLA this July.