Lena Al-Harthi, PhD
The designation as University Marshal, the first academic official to enter the Commencement Hall, is among the highest honors bestowed upon a faculty member at Rush University. The Marshal leads and attends to the procession ritual of the University faculty, the graduating students and the President’s Party. The Marshal, bearing the University’s mace, symbolizes the authority and leadership that faculty exercise over the educational process to assure the preparation of competent and responsible graduates. In representing the faculty, the Marshal is a member held in highest esteem for significant accomplishments in teaching, research and patient care. Selection of the University Marshal typically has rotated among the four colleges, and the selection process is determined by the college.
The 2014 Rush University Marshal, designated by the Rush Graduate College, is Lena Al-Harthi, PhD, a Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Immunology/Microbiology, where she served as program director of the division for eight years. Al-Harthi received her BS in biology and MS in biology from American University, Washington, DC, in 1989 and 1991, respectively; and completed her PhD in microbiology and immunology at George Washington University, Washington, DC, in 1996. She came to Rush later that year to complete postgraduate training as the Mark Weiss Fellow of Infectious Diseases at the Department of Immunology/ Microbiology, investigating immunopathogenesis of HIV infection and immune recovery post-antiretroviral treatment.
Since 1996, Al-Harthi’s research has focused on HIV/host interactions, with a special emphasis on bridging basic and clinical science in the HIV/AIDS field. Due to her experience in HIV molecular biology, immunology, and neuroAIDS, she has been able to probe mechanistic questions that are clinically relevant to HIV/AIDS. She is investigating the molecular pathway by which β-catenin regulates HIV replication, its impacts on HIV neuropathogenesis, and the role of host and viral factors in modulating β-catenin interaction with HIV. As PI or co-investigator, she has collaborated in numerous nationally funded large cohort studies, such as the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) and the AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG).
Dr. Al-Harthi has received a multitude of honors and awards, including being a nationally recognized figure in neuroAIDS and most notably has numerous active and completed NIH funded studies. She has served on national and international grant review study sections, where she chaired or co-chaired several of these panels, and is currently the Chair of the NeuroAIDS and other End-Organ Diseases (NAED) NIH study section. She has over 70 peer-reviewed publications and invited reviews/book chapters. Al-Harthi has received fellowship, investigative and scholarly awards from various institutions. She was also nominated for the Exceptional Research Mentoring Award (2002) and received a Faculty Excellence in Research Award (2013) at Rush University. Dr. Al-Harthi continues to be actively engaged in mentoring graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty.