Freja Ekman : Gates Cambridge Scholarship
Freja Ekman will graduate from U.C. Berkeley in spring 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Biology. Growing up with a close friend with autism, Freja witnessed firsthand the bullying that many people with disabilities experience. This sparked her passion for both genome engineering research and disability advocacy. During her undergraduate studies at Berkeley, her interests further grew as she helped develop CRISPR-Cas9-based gene therapy to treat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in vivo. However, there currently exists a large disconnect between the development of novel gene therapies in academic research labs and their feasibility in clinical applications. The treatment of genetic disorders is plagued by off-target effects and autoimmune responses, the long-term effects of which are often neglected. During her time in the translational biomedical research program at Cambridge, Freja hopes to gain the necessary skills to help bridge the gap between genome engineering and the pathophysiology seen in the clinic. Additionally, she hopes to continue to foster and advocate for a more inclusive environment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Outside of her studies, Freja enjoys long distance running, teaching, and exploring the outdoors. Freja is incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Gates Cambridge community and look forward to upholding its ideals and values.