Kiera O’Keefe grew up looking forward to her next science fair project, which were the highlight of each year. That feeling never went away. As a junior in high school, her love for science grew when she had the opportunity to shadow a biology graduate student. After observing the graduate student teach a lab class and helping with experiments, O’Keefe left realizing she could take her love for science and turn it into an exciting career.
O’Keefe earned her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology in 2019 from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. The Biotechnology program focused on project-based and hands-on learning. Her biotechniques labs gave her the opportunity to gain research experience while learning foundational concepts. She later worked for a startup biotech company doing research that showed her how basic science can be practically translated. O’Keefe also participated in research in rice fields in the Mississippi Delta and ran basic chemistry analyses for the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Delta Water Management Unit. Most recently, she has worked in the lab of Shengdar Tsai, PhD, Department of Hematology as a research technologist at St. Jude where she focused on testing and characterizing gene editing strategies for sickle cell disease treatment.
“When I toured St. Jude during my junior year, I left with an overwhelming sense of purpose and believed working in such a place would be my dream job,” she says. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to learn from some of the best researchers in the world.”
Hometown: Jonesboro, Arkansas