Sandra Laurence López
Sandra has shown interest in research since her first internships at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama during her high school and first year as a bachelor student. She then did many internships in the area of microbiology and virology in France and the US during her university studies until she joined Clarisse Berlioz-Torrent's lab at Institut Cochin, Paris, France for her Ph.D. in Microbiology, speciality Basic virology. During her PhD, her research focused on the assembly of infectious HIV particles. This allowed her to identify and describe the first cellular co-factor, TIP47, required for HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein incorporation into new virions, a step crucial for producing infectious particles. Sandra published four excellent first-authored papers in PNAS, J. Mol. Biol., Traffic and Retrovirology.
During her post-doctoral training on Immunology at Lewis Lanier's lab at University of California San Francisco, USA, she worked on human Natural Killer cells responses during viral infections and collaborated on projects on cancer immunotherapy. Sandra aimed to answer the question of whether NK cells in humans can mount specific response against viruses and possess memory NK cells. She discovered a unique population of NK cells in humans that specifically responds during CMV acute infection, and that these cells can persist after resolution of the infection, showing that these innate immune cells have features of adaptive immunity.
Sandra came back to Panama to the Gorgas Memorial Institute of Health Studies (ICGES) in 2012, where she participated to the strengthening of the study of arboviruses circulating or emerging in Panama, as well as developed a new research line for Panama on the innate immune response during arboviral infections, focusing principally on NK cells response. She trained many students in new technologies and mentored others for their thesis to obtain their Bachelor or Master degrees. She is also creating a flow cytometry core at ICGES available for any researcher in life sciences and biomedicine in Panama to empower the research on immunology and cell biology in the country. Besides being an outstanding experimentalist, another strength is Sandra's ability to establish research collaborations with a broad range of national and international researchers.
Moreover, in addition to her research and training work, Sandra has a goal to help increase the role of science in the country, and thus she has helped SENACYT, UNESCO and L'OREAL create the Panama National UNESCO-L'OREAL award to motivate and help young women to pursue her career in science. She has now been selected as a member of the Global Young Academy (GYA), an international society of young scientists from around the world that, like Sandra, are working to address global challenges and policy and to increase the impact of science in social, environmental, and health issues. One of her working groups at GYA and at the Panamanian movement CienciaEnPanama is on Women in Science, an issue important for her. Sandra is also interested in Science Diplomacy and she participates as lecturer and trainer on SENACYT and MIRE activities on that field.
Finally, on the personal side, Sandra is a mother of two girls (6 and 8 years old), trying to balance her research work, her educational and training work, as well as her duties as a mother.