Nelissa Perez-Nazario


  • 2010 - CFAR World AIDS Day Scientific Symposium Poster Presentation Award
    University of Rochester School Medical Center
  • 2010 - The Boris Albini Award for Poster Presentation at the Annual Buffalo Conference on Immunology. Niagara Falls, NY
  • 2008 - The Melville A. Hare Award for Excellence in Teaching
    University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • 2004 - American Society for Microbiology ABRCMS Poster Presentation Award in Microbiological Sciences. Dallas, TX
  • 2004 - The Vincent du Vigneaud Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry


Nelissa graduated from University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez Campus in 2006 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology. As an undergraduate she was part of the Photo of Nelissa Perez-NazarioMinority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program. She first came to the University of Rochester as a summer student in the GEBS Program where she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Constantine Haidaris on Photodynamic therapy of Candida albicans. Her work was part of a publication and her poster won the Vincent du Vigneaud Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research as well as a poster award at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). In 2005 Nelissa attended the SHURP Summer Program at Harvard Medical School and worked on cytogenetic analysis using zebra fish with Dr. Charles Lee. At her home institution she worked with Dr. Juan Carlos Martinez-Cruzado on mtDNA phylogenetic analysis of the population in PR. In the fall of 2006, Nelissa was admitted into the IMV PhD program at the University of Rochester. In 2007, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Terry Wright to begin her work looking at the host’s inflammatory response to the opportunistic fungus Pneumocystis carinii.

Nelissa has been very active in academic, social, philanthropic and community activities in our University. In 2008 she was awarded the Melville A. Hare Award for Excellence in Teaching for her performance as Teaching Assistant for the undergraduate Microbiology Laboratory. In 2010 she obtained poster presentation awards at the Annual Buffalo Conference on Immunology and at the CFAR World AIDS Day Scientific Symposium. She has participated in the Saturday Academy for elementary school students and the Science Ambassador Program for high school students teaching workshops to encourage students to study science. She has participated in recruiting trips to undergraduate institutions in Puerto Rico and volunteered at the interview weekends for the Office for Graduate Education. Nelissa was part of the Graduate Student Society board and currently represents the graduate student body at the URMC Alumni Council. She has been invited to speak to undergraduates from the GEBS and SURF programs at URMC on how to prepare and give effective poster presentations. She is a member of the Outreach Team for the Community Advisory Board for the URMC HIV Vaccine Trial Unit where she helps in the recruitment of volunteers for the HIV vaccine trials.

Research Description

Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PcP) is a prevalent fungal disease that causes significant morbidity and mortality among AIDS and other immunocompromised persons. In normal mouse models of infection, Pc attaches to the lung epithelium and grows for a period of time. Pc interaction with Alveolar Epithelial Cells (AECs) and Alveolar Macrophages initiates a cascade of events leading to inflammatory cytokine production and immune effector cell recruitment. Ultimately, Pc is cleared in a CD4+ T cell dependent mechanism and an antibody response is generated. We are interested in elucidating the role of AECs during Pc infection. In vitro, interaction of Pc with AECs has been shown to activate the NF-kB pathway resulting in the production of chemokines and cytokines. The specific role of NF-kB activation in the AECs during normal host defense to Pc infection in vivo has yet to be determined. In order to disrupt this pathway Nelissa has generated tissue specific conditional knockout mice by crossing transgenic mice containing loxP recombination sites flanking the IKK2 gene (IKK2floxed) with mice expressing Cre recombinase under the surfactant protein C promoter (Sftpccre). Upon infection these transgenic mice have shown altered immune responses and delayed organism clearance. So far her data suggests that indeed NF-kB signaling by the AECs is involved in immune cell recruitment, Pc clearance and resolution.

Articles Published

  1. Chabrier-Rosello, Y, Foster TH, Perez-Nazario N, Mitra S, Haidaris C. Sensitivity of Candida albicans germ tubes and biofilms to photofrin-mediated phototoxicity. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2005 Oct;49(10):4288-95.

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