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STEM Speaker Series Features Stanford Grad Student

Tue, 11 February, 2014 at 7:56 am
How does the bacterium Helicobacter pylori survive and persist in the stomach? Julie Huang, a fourth year graduate student in Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, will share her findings in the second lecture of the popular Cañada College STEM Speaker Series.

Held in both the fall and spring semesters, the STEM Speaker Series features professionals from various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields talking about their careers, research, and educational paths, as well as providing advice for current and future college students. The event is free and open to the public.

Cathy Lipe, Director of Cañada's Math, Engineering, & Science Achievement Program, said Huang was one of the most interesting presenters at the fall STEM Research Poster Expo. "She is going to be of particular interest to biology students and students interested in careers in medicine," Lipe said.

Huang grew up in East Los Angeles and is a first generation college student. She attended the California Institute of Technology where she received a Bachelor of Science in Geobiology. After Caltech, Huang received a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year doing research at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany. Her passion for scientific research motivated her to pursue a PhD in microbiology. Her research investigates how the bacterium Helicobacter pylori survives and persists in the stomach. 

H. pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium commonly found in the stomach. The bacteria's shape and the way they move allow them to penetrate the stomach's protective mucous lining, where they produce substances that weaken the lining and make the stomach more susceptible to damage from gastric acids.The bacteria can also attach to cells of the stomach, causing stomach inflammation, and can stimulate the production of excess stomach acid. Over time, infection with the bacteria can also increase the risk of stomach cancer.

Although it is not known how H. pylori infection is spread, scientists believe it may be contracted through food and water. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 20 percent of people under 40 years old and half of adults over 60 years old in the U.S. are infected, with higher rates in developing countries.