Desmond Edwards was born and raised in Jamaica, living in rural St. Mary and attending school in urbanized Kingston. As an extremely sickly child, Desmond’s first and primary exposure to science was through the healthcare system. Whether violent and persistent asthma attacks, common and disruptive allergies, or aggressive and pervasive infections, his body and his immune system have been working on overdrive for the better part of his life.
Missing days or weeks of school at a time, Desmond naturally developed an interest in better understanding human disease and developing novel therapeutic options for their treatment and prevention. Benefiting from a vast support network, including invaluable relationships with teachers and mentors, Desmond initially came to the United States at the age of 18 to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
At MIT, he double majored in biological engineering and biology, with a minor in French. In school, he conducted host-pathogen research in Professor Rebecca Lamason’s lab, focusing on characterizing mutants of interest and developing novel genetic tools for use in the tick-born pathogen, Rickettsia parkeri. As an Amgen Scholar, he also worked with Professor Viviana Gradinaru at the California Institute of Technology, to engineer solutions for a novel gene therapy for Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder primarily seen in girls. Interested not only in the technical details of scientific research but also in its societal impact, Desmond also dedicated himself to serving the community through roles in the MIT Biotech Group, student representation and advocacy, and teaching and mentorship. For his academic achievements and commitments to community and nation building, he was awarded a 2022 Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence, the highest national award bestowed on Jamaicans between the ages of 15 and 29 years by the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
As a National Science Foundation GRFP Fellow and Jamaica’s first Knight-Hennessy Scholar, Desmond is currently a PhD student in microbiology and immunology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine researching immunity to infectious diseases. Following completion of his training, Desmond intends to lead a scientific career that includes not only ground-breaking contributions to academic research, but also involvement in ensuring that the fruits of this research have their maximal benefit to society through public policy, outreach, and education.