By Devon Lukow
SC Contributing Writer
If you are interested in infectious diseases or the technologies used to study them, then you might want to know ESU professor Dr. Abdalla Aldras.
Dr. Aldras earned his doctorate of science at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he researched the development of a synthetic peptide malaria vaccine in mouse models.
He went on to do post-doctoral research at Tulane University’s National Primate Research Center.
While there, he developed antibodies for use in immune diagnosis of opportunistic infections in cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). He also researched the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and its ape counterpart, the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).
Later, he continued his work on developing a malaria vaccine as a research scientist at New York University Langone Medical Center.
In 1996, Dr. Aldras moved to East Stroudsburg University. He is currently the director of the biotechnology and medical technology programs.
He also teaches a variety of classes, such as mechanisms of disease, parasitology, immunology, and forensic biotechnology.
If not in his office or the classroom, Dr. Aldras can be found in the laboratory, conducting research with ESU students.
Over the years, he and his students have looked into various aspects of infectious diseases, such as the characterization of antigens and immune diagnosis of Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and toxoplasmosis.
Currently he is working with undergraduate students Megan Santiego, Sierra Miller, and Devon Lukow to conduct immune diagnostic testing for toxoplasmosis in coyotes.
When time permits, he also conducts research on the presence of some pathogenic protozoans, Giardia and Cryptosporidium, in the surface waters of northeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Earlier this year, Dr. Aldras assisted Daniel Serfass, a prodigious Pocono Mountain East High School freshman, with his research for the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) annual competition.
Serfass came to the microbiology lab at ESU and learned techniques from Dr. Aldras that he then used to perform his research. This research, which focused on cytokines — small proteins involved in cell signaling — and their effect on gut microbes, went on to win first place in the PJAS competition.
A few times a year, Dr. Aldras — with the help of biotechnology students — hosts science workshops for local high school students. These workshops involve about 20 high school students spending the day learning about different techniques in biotechnology and how to perform them.
Students have the opportunity to prepare electrophoretic gels and fingerprint DNA.
“This is to encourage them to join science…and to not be afraid of science,” said Dr. Aldras.
Dr. Aldras advises Zeta-Ata, ESU’s club for biotechnology and medical technology majors. He organizes opportunities for current students to network with ESU alumni and to learn about what types of career opportunities are available for ESU graduates.
“He wants you to succeed and he will go out of his way to help you,” said recent ESU graduate Shanna Strayhall. “He is very passionate about his work.”
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