Meet UNMC New Investigator Awardee Tricia LeVan, Ph.D.

May 14, 2012

UNMC researcher Tricia LeVan, Ph.D., answers questions about her work, life and interests.

NOTE: This profile is part of a series to highlight the 23 researchers who will be honored May 22 at a ceremony for UNMC's 2011 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator award recipients.

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Tricia LeVan, Ph.D.
  • Name: Tricia LeVan, Ph.D.
  • Title: Assistant professor in internal medicine and epidemiology. (Will be an associate professor in July.)
  • Joined UNMC: April 2006
  • Hometown: Pitman, N.J.

Describe your research in laymen's terms.

My research program focuses on the role of infectious pathogens and non-infectious bacterial components in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Bacterial colonization with Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumonia and Moraxella catahalis is associated with increased frequency of COPD exacerbations and accelerated decline in lung function, which appears to contribute to progressive airway obstruction and mortality of this disease.

My second area of research involves occupational exposures and COPD. The most common etiology of COPD is cigarette smoking; however, it is believed that as much as 15 percent of COPD is due to occupational exposures, independent of smoking. Farming is among occupations associated with COPD and is highly relevant in Nebraska.

How do you want your research to translate to benefit patients?

I would like my research to be able to establish new paradigms, and consequently new therapy, in the area of COPD pathogenesis.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?

The first great piece came from my parents, who said, "Get your Ph.D." The second bit was "Have fun!" from my mentor Marilyn Halonen.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I am a ceramicist who does hand building with clay.
  • I am a thrill seeker. I love to paraglide and want to race cars in the future.
  • I am into having psychic readings for myself and my cats! The innate talents of psychics are truly intriguing to me. I have had enough experiences to know that there ARE individuals with this unique ability.

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Aleta Gaertner
May 14, 2012 at 9:44 AM

In addition to her relevant research, Tricia is also a respected intructor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health. We are lucky to have her time and talents!

Sherry Martin
May 14, 2012 at 8:13 AM

I really enjoy reading about the various interests of the diverse people here at UNMC. I work in the same department (Epidemilogy) and didn't know Tricia is a thrill seeker, although I did know she's a "cat" lady. Well done!