Student Spotlight: Emily Irvine, Senior in Molecular and Biomedical Sciences

Yaseen Balkhi, Ph.D., is an Institute of Medicine  external affiliate, instructor at UMaine with additional appointment as an assistant professor from Tufts University School of Medicine who serves as scientific director of IT Bio, a Boston-based firm he co-founded.  He shared that Emily Irvine, a senior in Molecular and Biomedical Sciences is doing capstone 491-Molecular and Microbiology Research at IT Bio LLC (, Cambridge MA. IT Bio designs new anti-exhaustion therapies for cancer and chronic viral infection treatment.


Emily talked about her experience:  Due to COVID, I hadn’t been able to get much lab experience so when the Spring 2022 semester started I decided to look into options. Dr. Mumtaz Yaseen-Balkhi was my professor for both Molecular Genetics and Immunology at UMaine. He had published research on COVID, and my interests lie heavily in immunology, so I reached out to him to see if he had room for me in his lab. My advisor at UMaine suggested I inquire about interning for the summer at Immune Therapy Bio Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts and so I did. Dr. Mumtaz Balkhi and his colleagues were excited to welcome me.

My role for these two months of training under 491-Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology Research consists of studying T cell exhaustion in cancer. I am learning methods to induce CAR-T functional exhaustion as well as interventions to reverse it. Furthermore, this opportunity helps improve my tissue culture techniques, learn flow cytometry, plasmid preparation, and conduct ELISAs. I’m in the lab 4 to 5 days a week and attend weekly meetings, so I get to experience the inner workings behind a career in research. This is all incredibly useful since I’m interested in becoming a medical researcher and I’m grateful for this opportunity which will help me stand out when applying to grad schools this fall.