#TFAalum: Amanda Posgai, Class of 2006

Amanda Posgai graduated from The First Academy in 2006 as valedictorian and then attended the University of Florida and earned dual degrees in Microbiology and Cell Science (BS) as well as Food Science and Human Nutrition (BS). Amanda graduated cum laude in May of 2010. During her undergraduate years at UF, Amanda was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority and became very involved in Dance Marathon, a campus-wide student-run philanthropy that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network and Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville.

In August 2010, Amanda enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Immunology and Microbiology in the College of Medicine, where she was awarded the Alumni Fellowship and Grinter Scholarship. Amanda joined Dr. Mark Atkinson’s research laboratory where she studied potential combination therapies for the prevention and reversal of Type 1 Diabetes (formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes) using a preclinical model of the disease.

Amanda’s work focused on a novel approach to antigen-specific induction of oral tolerance as a means to prevent disease, the role of the gut microbiome in Type 1 Diabetes, and immunological intervention to reverse disease. The projects associated with immunological intervention were conducted as a part of a multi-center preclinical consortium in which four research centers – Yale University, University of Colorado at Denver, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, and the University of Florida — collaborated to conduct preclinical studies in the style of a clinical trial. This is a novel and groundbreaking approach to preclinical research. Amanda passed her qualifying exam and was therefore, admitted to doctoral candidacy in the Fall of 2012, where she recently graduated with a Ph. D. in December of 2014.

While in graduate school, Amanda served on the Graduate Student Council as the Community Service Chairperson for one year, and continued to remain involved in Dance Marathon at UF as a Dance Marathon Alumni Association (DMAA) board member.

Amanda is supported by a tremendous research team and a principal investigator, Mark Atkinson, who values early exposure to the global research community. She has been able to attend and present her work at local symposiums and international conferences:

• Immunology of Diabetes Society (Victoria, Canada- 2013)
• American Diabetes Association (Chicago- 2014)
• Immunology of Diabetes Society (Lorne, Australia- 2014)
• “Best Oral Presentation” at the UF Pediatrics Science and Research Day, 2013

Amanda will be attending/presenting data this year at:

• Immunology of Diabetes Society (Munich, Germany- April 2015)
• American Diabetes Association (Boston- June 2015).

Since of graduation, Amanda is continuing to work with the Atkinson lab. However, her role has changed to the scientific writer for the UF Diabetes Institute. Amanda will be responsible for drafting, editing, and formatting publications, grant proposals, and documents that are required to gain approval for research (clinical IRB as well as preclinical IACUC protocols). She will also oversee data analysis, ongoing projects in the lab, and training graduate students.

With regard to The First Academy’s role in preparing her for her career-path, Amanda stated,

“I have found that while I have to work hard to strictly memorize facts, my strengths lie in my ability to think critically and apply information to solve problems. I am sure that part of that ability was derived from my education at The First Academy. I grew a great deal during my junior and senior years of high school where we were challenged to think critically, particularly in AP language and literature classes. Additionally, in grad school, I was much stronger than many of my peers in the areas of writing and reading comprehension. While reading and writing may sound unimportant in my field, in reality, some of the most important aspects of my time as a graduate student involved reading the scientific literature, being able to think critically to interpret data (identify flaws in the author’s interpretation) and form new hypotheses, as well as writing publications (as well as a very lengthy dissertation). These are skills for which the foundation is laid early on, and I am glad to have developed them early on.”

The First Academy would like to congratulate Amanda on her career successes and pray that the Lord continues to bless Amanda in her future endeavors.