The honor is given annually to the medical center's most promising postdoctoral scholar, as part of UNMC's effort to facilitate postdocs' timely transition to an independent career.
Dr. Case, along with his mentor, Matt Zimmerman, Ph.D., will be honored at UNMC's annual Postdoctoral Seminar, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, in the Durham Research Center auditorium.
Below is a Q&A with Dr. Case on his young career.
How close are you to actual independence?
I have been ready to be a principal investigator (PI) since the day I started graduate school. . . . I am currently in the process of publishing several more papers, as well as submitting numerous grants that would provide independent funding. My goal is to continue to grow so that I may venture on my own, hopefully sometime next year.
Goals for your own lab?
My training, graduate and postdoctoral, has taken place in smaller labs, which has the advantage of more direct interaction and mentorship from the PI. This has played a key role in my success to date, and I hope to have the same positive interaction with my future trainees as well.
What brought you to your area of research?
My thesis set out to identify a new potential cause for childhood leukemia and lymphoma, but like most research projects it did not pan out as I had hoped. Interestingly, it led me away from cancer, and into the field of immunology and the world of cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of both men and women in America.
Did/do you have a back-up plan if snagging a rare opening as a faculty researcher does not work out?
My main goal is to become an independent scientist at a top-tier academic institution. While that's incredibly difficult with today's climate, I have worked tirelessly the last two years to establish a research project, funding, and to network in my area of study. I plan on continuing this into the next chapter of my life as an independent scientist, wherever and whenever that may be.
Who are your scientific heroes?
Without a doubt, Jonas Salk. What is often overlooked is that Salk never patented the polio vaccine, making it available and accessible worldwide. I hope to be like Salk, and not lose sight of why we do research in the first place -- to make a difference in the world.
Congratulations!! Working with you has been a great learning experience.