Assistant Professor of biology Juliet Spencer is on a winning streak, having recently taken home the Association for Women in Science’s (AWS) Ellen Weaver Award and USF’s Arthur Furst Award for Outstanding Research Advancing Science for the Betterment of Humanity.
A month after winning the national Association for Women in Science’s
(AWIS) Ellen Weaver Award, University of San Francisco Assistant
Professor of biology Juliet Spencer followed up by receiving USF’s
Arthur Furst Award for Outstanding Research Advancing Science for the
Betterment of Humanity.
“It's been so exciting and unbelievable to win two awards like this,” Spencer said. “I am completely thrilled and shocked.”
April, Spencer was honored at a banquet of the Northern California
chapters of the AWIS for her dedicated student mentoring and commitment
to promoting the success of women in the field of science. Spencer is
the faculty adviser for the USF student club Women in Science, which
maintains an informal affiliation with AWIS.
“We organize campus
speakers, develop internship opportunities, and promote research for
women in the sciences,” said Spencer of the club. In addition to
connecting female science students to role models on and off campus,
the club strives to impress upon the club’s members that they, too, are
role models for younger students.
To accomplish that, Women in
Science members regularly attend the annual Expanding Your Horizons in
Math and Science seminar at Skyline College in San Bruno to encourage
more young women to study science through a workshop they developed
called Cover Girl Chemists, Spencer said. The workshop explores the
chemistry behind lip-gloss, mascara, and other makeup products breaking
it down for junior college- and high school-level students, using the
topic as an entrée to discussing the wide variety of scientific fields.
think promoting careers in science and even just interest in science to
everyone is important,” Spencer said. “But, women often have fewer role
models in these positions, so I try to provide encouragement and
guidance and help our students find opportunities for networking,
Spencer’s research – for which she was
recently honored with USF’s Arthur Furst Award – involves five female
and two male USF student researchers and centers on the machinations of
one of the many variants of the herpes virus (HCMV) that is a leading
cause of birth defects.
Her team has made strides in determining
how the virus – which can lay dormant in humans for decades before an
event causes it to attack the systems of immune-compromised individuals
(such as organ transplant recipients and AIDS patients) – is able to
trick the immune system, preventing it from attacking and eliminating
the virus during dormancy.
“Our work examining the modulation of
the immune system by the virus is expected to help in the development
of a vaccine for HCMV,” said Spencer, whose team is coordinating
efforts with another group of scientists at University of California,
With papers already published on the research in the Journal of Virology and Virology,
she hopes the next breakthrough will provide insights about cell
signaling phenomena that are valuable to scientists in a wide range of