Dr. Keke Fairfax is Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Utah. She has either led or participated in numerous activities to advance inclusive excellence across the University of Utah, including the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center’s “Rising Stars in Metabolism: Celebrating Diversity and Excellence in Science” seminar series and launch of the undergraduate summer research internship program BRIDGE-UP HBCU (Biomedical Research Inclusion & Diversity to Grow Excellence in Science – Undergraduate Program in partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities). She has developed and teaches innovative, anti-racist training and seminars —now three years running—on the history of racism in medicine and the life sciences, with an emphasis on ethics-focused anti-racism. Within the School of Medicine, Dr. Fairfax developed a year-long IM-PREP program for underrepresented students in health sciences and serves on the School of Medicine EDI Action Committee which aims to make policy changes across the School.
Dr. Fairfax received her PhD from Yale in Microbial Pathogenesis in 2009. Her dissertation work focused on identifying novel fatty acid binding proteins in the human hookworm Ancylostoma ceylanicum. She completed her post-doctoral training in Schistosoma mansoni immuno-parasitology with Edward Pearce and Gwendalyn Randolph in 2014. She began her independent laboratory at Purdue University in 2014 and moved to the University of Utah in 2018. The Fairfax laboratory at the University of Utah broadly focuses on using the helminth parasite Schistosoma mansoni as a tool to understand both, the relative contributions of schistosome antigen vs IL-4 in inducing host immuno-modulation, and the complex interplay between lymphoid and stromal cells necessary to develop an optimal T and B cell memory response. Under this umbrella we currently have three main projects: 1) Understanding the immunological implications of maternal schistosomiasis; 2) Dissecting the role of IL-4 in shaping the cellular environment of peripheral lymph nodes during homeostasis and antigenic challenge; 3) Delineating the mechanistic role of antigen driven immunological re-programing in helminth-induced protection from metabolic diseases.