Mont Vernon, N.H. • Profiled: Fall ’02
MD and medical researcher
It’s called intuition, a feeling, an innate sixth sense that something just feels right.
Melissa Ashlock had it when she went to Purdue. “It was just the right place for me to be,” she says. “It felt like a very serious place, and I was a very serious student.”
As a senior in biochemistry, she received the Flora Roberts Award as Purdue’s outstanding senior woman.
And intuition told her the right place to be for the past 10 years was Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics, the foundation’s discovery and development affiliate.
As vice president of drug discovery, Ashlock has played an integral role in developing drugs to battle cystic fibrosis, a fatal, genetic disorder that affects more than 30,000 Americans and 70,000 people worldwide.
When the foundation was started in 1955, victims rarely lived long enough to attend elementary school. But thanks to scientific advances by scientists such as Ashlock, people with the disease can now expect to live into their late 30s and beyond.
But now Ashlock’s intuition is telling her it’s time to move on.
She is now turning her attention and applying what she has learned to a new program at the National Institutes of Health to battle rare and neglected diseases.
“There are all of these other diseases that need someone working on them.
You work all your life to learn about something (such as cystic fibrosis), and
then you get an opportunity to apply that knowledge and experience to something that will have a broader impact such as rare and neglected diseases. It would be very exciting.”
And very serious.
The voice of experience: Purdue can provide you with great opportunity and a great community. In the field of medicine, I meet people from Purdue all the time. Even though I don’t work in agriculture, Purdue Agriculture provided me with a great foundation I continue to build upon. — Melissa Ashlock