Student Profile: Amanda Shea

Amanda Shea; Morris Lab

Where are you from and what’s your previous training? Why Madison and the Cancer Biology program? 

I’m originally from the Northern VA area, but grew up in a military family, so there’s not a specific place I consider to be my childhood home. After graduating from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA, I got a lab tech job in Madison, WI. I left home and haven’t looked back. I began with basic lab management until a few, now best friends, asked for me to help them with their iPSC cultures. After a year as a lab tech, I was promoted to the RAGE (Reprogramming and Genome Engineering) group where I spent most of my time reprogramming human blood and fibroblasts back to stem cells for different clients. During this time, I was also training for flow cytometry and was sent to California to assist on generating banks for CIRM. After two years with this group, a PhD position opened in the CAR-T Immunotherapy group. I took a chance and applied, literally telling my future boss “I may not have the degree, but I have the hands to learn whatever you need.” During those last three years, I worked on generating both human iPSC derived CAR-T and CAR-NK cells. I also worked on more advanced flow training and switching our product to a completely GMP therapeutic.

As soon as I moved to Madison, I knew this was the town for me. It’s small, but has unlimited potential if you know where to look. From the outdoor adventures and quiet indoor adventures, Madison has something for everyone. Being a huge biotech center as well really solidified that this was the best place for me. Applying to UW was a no brainer. Because of my previous work in immunotherapy, I was interested in continuing that field for my degree, so the cancer biology program at UW was a perfect fit.

What was your favorite place/activity to hang out when you need to de-stress? 

My house!! I keep a ton of books and video games queued up to be able to unwind at the end of the day. If it’s a spot, I love going to Original House of Pancakes on weekend mornings with my friends to chat over french toast and coffee.

What is your home lab and what is your project focusing on? 

I’m in the Zach Morris lab on the third floor of WIMR. Currently, my project is focusing on the dose dependent responses of immune cell subtypes to radiation.

Any new advice for incoming students? 

Relax. There’s no right or wrong path, do what feels right for you and take as many opportunities as you can. We are all doing science at the end of the day; it might as well be science you like.

What is one fun fact about you?

I got the job here in Madison from an online pen pal. In college I really enjoyed the first few seasons of the walking dead and I liked drawing the characters. Another tumblr user enjoyed my art, and I enjoyed theirs, so we got to talking. They wound up moving to Madison my senior year of college and asked if I was interested in moving here because of the biotech industry. I applied for the lab tech job where her husband worked and finally met them when I came out to interview. Don’t tell my parents; they told me not to meet people from the internet.