Inas Helwa graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry- Ain Shams University in Cairo with a Bachelor of Dental surgery (BDS), afterwards working as a pediatric dentist in Egypt for two years before moving to the U.S. to pursue graduate opportunities in the biomedical sciences.
“I wanted to enrich my clinical background with academic and research experience, so I joined the department of Oral Biology and Maxillofacial Pathology at Augusta University (Augusta University) in 2010 for my post-graduate studies,” she explained. “It’s a great department for students with dental backgrounds, and it fascinated me with the variety of research if offered.”
Inas continued on to describe the Oral Biology Program as diverse, with innovative techniques and technologies utilized to accomplish research projects, and where faculty members are a big asset.
“As a Ph.D. student and a mum of two, I needed support and assurance, and that was always provided to me by everyone in the department,” she said. “They were there to solve problems, troubleshoot, and to offer valuable scientific, and personal, advice. My experience in the Oral Biology Program encouraged me to pursue a career in academia.”
As a graduate student in the program, she won the 2014 Fischer Award for Scientific Excellence for her work focusing on the effect of the anti-psoriatic agent monomethylfumarate on keratinocytes proliferation, differentiation, and oxidative stress. She said this project inspired her with its direct translation impact “from bench to bedside.”
“My hope is that my graduate research will be a step towards alleviating the suffering of millions of psoriatic patients worldwide and that it can at least, in part, improve their quality of life,” she said.”
Inas graduated from the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program in 2010, and soon accepted a post-doctoral fellowship in the Cellular Biology & Anatomy Department at Augusta University. She is currently working in Dr. Yutao Liu’s lab, investigating the genetics of eye diseases. In her research, she is trying to find genetic links by which she can identify people who are at risk for developing eye diseases so that the occurrence of the disease can be slowed down or prevented entirely.
“Nowadays, genetics are a big theme and a great hope for patients as well as clinicians,” she said. “The idea of predicting a disease before it even happens, or personalizing treatment plans for patients, is a dream that is slowly but surely coming true.”
Her lab is currently conducting studies in order to help elucidate the genetic mechanisms underlying Glaucoma and Keratoconus.
Even though she has moved on to a different research area, Inas still collaborates with her colleagues in the Oral Biology Department.
“I’m still working in translational work, but now it’s more towards genetics,” she said. “The Oral Biology Department is so collaborative and interdisciplinary that I was well prepared for the work I am doing now.”