Liz completed her Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science (Biochemistry) at McMaster and began her MSc at the Ashkar lab in 2019. Through her undergraduate research experiences and courses in immunology and virology, she developed a strong interest in studying immunological responses to viral infections. Liz joined the Ashkar lab to take on a project investigating the immunopathology of Zika virus (ZIKV).
Before the outbreaks in French Polynesia in 2013 and South America in 2015, ZIKV was regarded as a self-limiting and mild disease. In addition to microcephaly, these ZIKV epidemics revealed an association between ZIKV infection and Guillain–Barré syndrome, which results in muscle weakness and paralysis. However, our understanding of ZIKV infections is limited, and little is known about the role of innate immunity in developing ZIKV-induced brain damage. Liz's research focuses on understanding two aspects of ZIKV infections: 1) Investigating the immune responses that lead to brain damage and paralysis resulting from ZIKV infections; 2) Studying how the route of infection (mosquito bite or sexual transmission) influences ZIKV pathogenesis.