Amy Steadman is a biochemist for Intellectual Ventures Lab, currently working on a cervical cancer screening project to develop a test that would help diagnose high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) in the pre-cancer stage. We recently spoke with Amy to learn more about her passion for using research to help women in the developing world, her inspiration for her work and how she rocks out in her free time. 

Tell us about your work.

I’m working on a cervical cancer screening project, developing a test to detect the high-risk HPV DNA, a common sexually-transmitted infection that spreads quickly among teenagers and young adults the world over and often causes cervical cancer. Hundreds of thousands of women in low resource settings die of cervical cancer each year. If it is diagnosed in the pre-cancer stage, treatment is non-invasive, effective and inexpensive. So we are trying to develop a test that allows a clinician to screen a woman, immediately report whether she has HPV before the virus has caused cancer, and then treat her on the spot.  

What inspires you most about what you do?

My parents have devoted most of their lives to aid and missionary work in low-resource settings, so they provided a great model of the value of service to others. Research is the practical approach I have taken to helping people who don’t have the same resources that many of us have in the U.S. If I find myself feeling frustrated at work, I try to focus on the women who need this [cervical cancer screening] test and who will ultimately benefit from it. I find the purpose of my work to be incredibly inspiring, and it allows me to push through any stressful moments.

Working in the lab is also totally fun, and I’m excited to come to work. I think it is easy to overlook how cool some of even the most basic techniques are. I get to visualize the localization of fluorescent mRNA in cells, see DNA in a nucleus, grow immortalized cell lines, amplify and analyze DNA, specifically detect ultra-minute quantities of protein in solution and read tons of interesting literature.

What do you do for fun?

I like being outside as much as possible, playing sports with my three-year-old and dog, going to Seahawks and Chiefs games, gardening and reading. I used to produce concerts and play music, so I’m kind of into that, but I play more “Rock Band” than real music at this point. My “Rock Band” band is called “Sizzle,” and I was one of the top ranked people in the world in Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) trivia. I also love traveling and eating.

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