Chimwemwe “Chim” Mwase (G5, Park Lab)

Where are you from and what do you enjoy most about your hometown?

I am from Lusaka, Zambia. What I enjoy most is the incredibly friendly people. There are over 70 ethnic groups spread across Zambia and Lusaka is a melting pot of these different cultures and traditions. Everyone is united in being Zambian, even when they have a different culture and ethnic tribe.

What is your research focused on?

Epithelial cells line all airways of the lung, where they provide the first line of defense against inhaled allergens, pollutants, and pathogens. My work focuses on understanding how these cells communicate through cell-derived particles called extracellular vesicles (EVs), to maintain lung homeostasis in health or contribute to lung dysfunction in diseases like asthma. Additionally, in collaboration with the Kanki lab, I am studying SARS-CoV-2 infection in human airway epithelial cells to better understand the severity of COVID-19 in older adults.

What is your favorite part of your research?

I work with donor epithelial cells that recapitulate many features of airways found in humans! When epithelial cells are exposed to asthma-associated stimuli, they release EVs which can deliver messages to recipient cells. My exciting work to identify contents of these EVs could lead to new discoveries and treatments for asthma. Furthermore, by studying the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on epithelial cells, we have the unique opportunity to gain new insights into why older adults are more susceptible to severe COVID-19.

How do you relax when you’re not working?

When I am not working, I enjoy hanging out with friends, attending concerts, binge-watching TV shows, and listening to True crime podcasts.

Tell us about an activity outside of lab you’re involved in and why it’s important to you.

I am passionate about fostering safe spaces to promote mental health and a culture of wellbeing for graduate students. To give back to our community, I have been one of the student representatives on the BPH Committee on Mental Health and Wellbeing since its inception in 2020. While on the committee, I have been involved in spearheading various initiatives such as the Peer Mentoring Program. This peer-mentorship provides a network of support as students navigate their early years in BPH.