It was summer camp seven years ago when Ashley Anderson, now a senior, noted the pinpricks dotting her skin and the massive indigo bruises on her arm, and suspected something was very wrong.
What she didn’t suspect was that those pinpricks and bruises would shape much of her academic and professional future. Doctors eventually diagnosed Anderson with the immune disorder lupus.
“I wanted to learn more about it,” Anderson recalls.
Now at U-M, Anderson is doing just that. From her sophomore year, when she was involved in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), to her senior year, Anderson has been working to develop a new screening method for lupus.
UROP pairs students with faculty on research projects pertaining to the student’s interests. Through UROP, Anderson also has begun to understand the physiology of lupus. “I knew what happened to my body from a patient perspective,” Anderson says, “but you don’t really know why you’re feeling the way you are, or what’s going on with your body.”
Anderson firmly believes the project will make it from petri dish to product shelves to people.
“I might not be here to benefit from what comes from this,” Anderson says, “but it’s not just about me. I’m participating in something that could help us get to that point, and that’s worthwhile.”
Lupus is a disorder in which the immune system attacks itself. “It has no preference, it can attack any organ system in the body,” Anderson explains. It’s also one of the most challenging diseases to diagnose. Anderson’s project looks at using certain antibodies and proteins as a screening test for lupus.