Fighting Infectious Disease

A headshot of Elizabeth LeMasters
Elizabeth LeMasters '10

Elizabeth LeMasters, RWU Class of 2010

Major:  Chemistry

Up on the fifth-floor influenza laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control’s Roybal campus in Atlanta, Elizabeth LeMasters works toward developing a new test critical in the pursuit of a universal flu vaccine. Although Roger Williams University is now more than 1,000 miles away, she knows that is where she began her journey to becoming an Association of Public Health Laboratories CDC Emerging Infectious Disease Fellow. It started in the RWU science labs in Bristol to an immersive public health education in El Salvador before leading to the CDC lab in Georgia where she’s worked the last few years.

Not only does she collaborate with the world’s leading scientists to develop a test which may one day result in the creation of a single vaccine to protect against multiple strains of flu, LeMasters also had the opportunity to work alongside the international infection control team in contributing to the recent global Ebola response.

And she says her passion for digging into this kind of work all started with a virology course led by Professor Marcie Marston at Roger Williams. During this course, students tracked the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic in real time and discussed real life implications of viral mutation and the world’s response. Next, like many undergraduates at RWU, she jumped at the chance to collaborate with a professor on cutting edge research.

The close relationship she developed with Professor Kerri Warren resulted in the two of them forging a path for public health-minded students to travel abroad to work with families in need of basic health services by establishing the RWU chapter of the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC). On the university’s first FIMRC trip to El Salvador, LeMasters emerged acutely aware of the global implications of public health at home and abroad.

“With so much of the education at Roger Williams University, you’re put into positions that take you outside of your comfort zone – not knowing what challenges may arise and having to make decisions on your feet, and that’s excellent preparation for real-world experiences,” LeMasters says. “Roger gave me the foundation to move on to grad school and to this fellowship.”