Grimes award inspires travel, research in immunology and virology

Headshots of Dira Putri and Shelley Grimes on a School of Dentistry branded background

Dira Putri, PhD candidate in the Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology program at the University of Minnesota, is the inaugural recipient of the Shelley N. Grimes Conference Travel Fellowship award.

The Grimes fellowship provides funding to a student researcher who is participating in a professional meeting and presenting their research, particularly research on virology or cancer biology. It honors Shelley Grimes, PhD, a former professor and virology researcher at the School of Dentistry who passed away in 2017 and is funded through the Shelley N. Grimes Memorial Fund.

“Shelley’s legacy continues,” reflected Paul Jardine, PhD, in an announcement of the award to donors. “We are making great progress in seeking answers to the challenging scientific questions Shelley pursued, building on the foundation of the highest scientific standards and strong collaborations with which she left us. But most importantly, we continue to work as Shelley taught us, with love in our hearts.”

Putri is a third-year PhD student who came to the United States from Indonesia to study infectious diseases. “Where I’m from, infectious disease research is underfunded,” she explained. “I have always been fascinated with virology, especially in the field of tropical infectious diseases. I hope to get a terminal degree in the US and return to Indonesia and support the basic research infrastructure there.”

She studies Kobuviruses, a poorly-understood and emerging viral pathogen. The Grimes Fellowship funds supported a presentation of her research at the Keystone Symposia on Viral Immunity and Respiratory Viruses. Of particular interest to Putri because of its joint nature in studying both immunity and respiratory viruses, the symposia allowed her to connect with researchers across fields.

“It was a very enriching experience because as a basic virologist, I also got to learn the immunology side of things,” she said. “One thing I will always remember is the feedback I received from people of various backgrounds about my project.”

Putri recalled the friendships and connections she made traveling to the symposia, made possible because of the award funds. “This experience helped me connect with like-minded scientists, with the hope that this will help me identify potential postdoctoral positions in the future,” she said. “This award made it possible.”

Most of all, Putri was honored to have received an award that helps keep Grimes’s legacy alive.

“Although I never got the chance to know her personally, I’m forever grateful for her dedication as a woman in virology,” Putri reflected. “I think one thing she stressed the most during her time as an associate professor was to ‘persevere throughout the long road.’ That is one value I hold closely as a graduate student. Now that I’m the recipient of her award, I’m excited to carry on her legacy to persevere through the ups and downs of my scientific career.”