Almost a million Americans fall ill with pneumonia each year. Nearly half of these cases require hospitalization, and 5-7 percent are fatal. Current vaccines provide protection against some strains of the disease, but, according to University of Pennsylvania sophomore Ivan Ye, the severity of the problem speaks to “an increasing need for a universal vaccine.”

The University Scholar from Iowa City, Iowa, has been conducting research this summer to develop just such a vaccine under the guidance of Hao Shen, associate professor of microbiology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Ye says the opportunity to contribute to such important research as an undergraduate “was a major factor in deciding to matriculate at Penn.”

The University Scholars Program at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships connected him to a research mentor, Brian Keith, adjunct professor of cancer biology in the School of Medicine. Ye credits Keith with helping him find research opportunities that would match his interests.

Ye had been involved in biomedical research throughout high school, and, while he was still interested in biomedical engineering, he wanted to use the opportunity to try something new.