Pacific University's science curriculum and faculty put this alumna on a path to a career in immunology researchJenni Luckett | Editor
Undergraduate research opportunities were part of what originally brought Hrisavgi (Chrys) Kondilis-Mangum ’03 to Pacific University.
Those same opportunities are what helped her go on to earn her PhD at Duke University and to become an immunology researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
“From first grade on, science was one of my favorite subjects,” she said. “I wanted to figure out problems: Why is something broken? How does it work normally? Those are the questions that get me up in the morning.”
After growing up in Portland, she was looking for a small learning community where she could get her hands into research. Pacific University fit the bill.
“It was kind of the best of both worlds for me: a small school with access to expensive instruments, and I got to do research as an undergraduate,” she said.
Kondilis-Mangum majored in chemistry, conducting undergraduate research with Professor Jim Currie and helping form a small chemistry society.
She conducted two years worth of research alongside Dr. Currie, as well as a summer of research, and she spent another summer working at a biotech company. She also took an immunology course with Professor John Schnorr and fell in love with the subject.
“He pretty much started my love of immunology, and it’s just never gone away,” she said.
By the time Kondilis-Mangum applied for graduate school, she had far more hands-on experience than many of her peers.
“A lot of my friends entering grad school were amazed at how many instruments I had actually run myself and knew how to fix, just because that’s what we did. I definitely got more hands-on learning experience at Pacific.”
At Duke, Kondilis-Mangum earned her PhD while studying T-cell development with Dr. Michael Krangel and learning different aspects of immunology and molecular biology. Today, at the NIEHS, she’s on a team investigating B-cell development and DNA methylation. Basically, they are studying how the cells work properly to try to understand why mutations.
“People are sequencing more and more cancers, and we’re starting to learn all of these different proteins that might be involved in cancer development,” Kondilis-Mangum said. “So, going back and trying to figure out how they work normally will help us understand why they mutated in cancer cells.”
Her work today started, she said, with the opportunities presented by her experience at Pacific University.
“Even though Pacific is small compared to other universities, the faculty really take the time and effort to get the best instruments to learn on, to teach you to most current techniques,” she said. “I was more prepared than other people, just because I had been exposed to so many different types of science when I was at Pacific.”