After entering Fordham College at Rose Hill with ambitions of becoming a medical doctor, Elsa Au-Yeung, FCRH ’20, made discoveries that took her career down another avenue of the health sector. What she discovered was research—first at the Louis Calder Center, Fordham’s biological field station in Armonk, New York, and then in the labs on the Rose Hill campus. Today, she’s a research associate at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the company in Tarrytown, New York, that made national news in September because of its effective antibody treatment for COVID-19.

Au-Yeung’s research focus is multiple sclerosis, one of many conditions for which the company is developing therapies. At Fordham, majoring in biological sciences, she discovered not only the joys of research but also many other sources of inspiration.

What are some of the reasons why you decided to attend Fordham?
Having been raised in small-town Wilton, Connecticut, I knew I wanted to experience college in the city. Fordham was perfect because it also had such a classic campus atmosphere. And I have always valued small classes because I learn best not only by being challenged but also through actively engaging in discussions and debates. So Fordham was the right choice for me because of the smaller classes with passionate professors teaching them.

What do you think you got at Fordham that you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere?
Prior to coming to Fordham, I was only excited to learn about things pertaining to my major, biological sciences, but through the University’s core curriculum, I was exposed to so many different classes I never would have taken otherwise. I’m thankful that I took these courses because they refined the way I question and think about virtually everything: religion, ethics, myself, the health care industry, et cetera. I gained new interests through many of my core courses, such as Buddhism in America, and Intro to Bioethics challenged many preconceived beliefs I had about the healthcare industry and controversial ethicists.

Did you take courses or have experiences at Fordham that helped you discern your talents and interests and put you on your current path?
Originally I was set on going to medical school after graduating and did not consider anything else. To build my resume and earn money, I applied for an undergraduate research grant for the summer of 2017. Working at the Calder Center, I studied the use of eDNA—or DNA that animals leave behind in their environment—as part of biodiversity and conservation studies at the center.

This experience changed everything for me. I enjoyed it so much that I applied for another grant and worked on cell/molecular research in Associate Professor Patricio Meneses’ lab. These academic experiences motivated me to try out industry research, so I applied for an internship with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where I work now. This internship affirmed for me that I wanted to change my medical school plans and pursue research instead. In the spring before graduating, I worked part time at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, contributing to global HPV and HIV studies, after finding this position through Fordham.

Who is the Fordham professor or person you admire the most, and why?
Patricio Meneses—I took his cancer biology and introductory virology classes, and he was my lab mentor. He helped give me the confidence to pursue the life I wanted after I graduated. His intelligence is admirable and his life story of getting where he is today is inspiring. He didn’t discover his passion or “dream job” by following one path; he went through different career paths, all of which led him to where he is today. It’s admirable because I am a planner, and his story and advice remind me that you don’t necessarily have to know where you want to be a year from now.

Can you describe your current responsibilities? What do you hope to accomplish, personally or professionally?
I’m a research associate working in Regeneron’s Immune and Inflammation Group. My group focuses on autoimmune diseases, but I specifically work on multiple sclerosis. My responsibilities include developing, optimizing, and testing candidate therapeutics for MS in mouse models and downstream analysis of associated disease-related pathologies. My professional goals are to continue learning (since the learning curve is steep), and my long-term goal is to become a scientist.

Is there anything else we should know about you, your plans, or your Fordham connection?
While I love science, I also love to travel, paint, cook/bake, and run long distance. I also would love to be a resource for current pre-med students or help out in any way I can as a proud Fordham alumna.