Chet Ojha with his mentor Dr. Nazira El-Hage

Congratulations to Chet Ojha, the latest Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) student to be awarded a PhD in Biomedical Sciences.

During his research at HWCOM, Ojha worked in the lab of Nazira El-Hage, in the Department of Immunology and NanoMedicine, studying how the Zika virus reaches the brain in order to invade and kill neurons and other brain cells.

A month ago, he defended his dissertation “Molecular mechanisms of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection and associated neuropathogenesis”, and officially graduates on July 27.

“There is a dire need for efficient treatment and vaccine to prevent ZIKV associated disorders. In that context, we understood that a better understanding of the interaction between virus and host cellular pathways could pave the way for development of targeted therapeutic intervention,” Ojha says.

Using invitro cell culture models and in vivo mouse models, the research unraveled different cellular pathways influencing the Zika virus infection in the brain, providing potential avenues for development of therapeutics for Zika.

After graduation, Ojha will join St. Jude Research Hospital for further training as a postdoctoral fellow.