Studying immunology - Detect and Protect, an image of zooming in on a drop of blood to see the cells and viruses inside.

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Antibody: a molecule made by B-cells to trap foreign particles and microbes......more

Enthralled: to have your attention captured by something.

Immunology: the study of immune systems and immune function...more

Career Path for Douglas Lake

Fast Facts:

  • Number of years in school: 20
  • Favorite class / subject: Viral Immunology
  • Hardest class / subject: Statistics
  • First Job: DNA lab technician
  • Dream job as a kid: Astronaut
  • One word you would use to describe your current job: Satisfying

a silhouette of a young student looking into a microscope

Lake was fascinated by how our blood and the immune molecules it holds help protect us against disease. Image by ErAnger via Pixabay.

A dark red blood sample fills a syringe held by a wide-eyed immunology student. He turns and places a drop onto a glass slide, adds a cover slip, and places it under a microscope. Peering through the lens, his eyes widen further. A galaxy of red discs and other odd circular shapes meet his gaze.

Blood is the liquid which courses through our bodies, delivering oxygen and nutrients to our tissues. It contains molecules and cells of our immune system which fight the scariest of diseases. A young Douglas Lake was enthralled by the fact that our blood, and the immune molecules and cells it hosts, are our first defense against diseases that can hurt us.

A Different Path to Medicine

A passion for immunology began to flow through Lake’s veins, alongside his blood. His first look at blood through the microscope started a career-long dedication to his newfound appetite. He knew that this would lead him down a different path than many of his pre-medical classmates.

An image of blood through a microscope showing pink red blood cells and one purple-stained immune cell, a basophil

When Lake first looked at blood through a microscope, he likely saw an image like this. Here, many red blood cells surround one immune cell that is stained purple. Image by Echinaceapallida via Wikimedia Commons.

He noticed that these classmates seemed to only read to get the grades they needed to go to medical school. They didn’t seem to truly enjoy what they were reading. Lake, however, was reading for fun. He devoured knowledge about immunology and how he could use it to make the world a better place.

Aside from immunology, Lake was passionate about helping people on a global scale. While doctors help many people over their careers, they usually do this by helping people one at a time. Lake sought to help many people at once by discovering new ways to fight diseases that exist all over the world.

A Long Path to Immune Research

The road to becoming a world-class researcher is a long one. One of Lake’s first jobs was in a lab that studied HIV. There, Lake helped create antibodies that could block HIV from infecting human cells.

Budding HIV exiting an infected cell

One of the first viruses that Lake worked to protect against was HIV, human immunodeficiency virus. In this image, countless new viruses are coming out of a cell with a severe infection of HIV. Click for more detail.

Doug knew how important this job was, as we didn’t have many tools to fight HIV at the time. The lessons he learned in this job would eventually inspire him to develop a COVID-19 test. Armed with his passion to fight diseases at a global scale, Lake went on to work on a PhD. He earned his degree by designing and building antibody fragments. These small antibodies are used to target and prevent disease from spreading.

Throughout his career, Lake has focused his research on studying how the immune system works and finding new ways to use the immune system to test for disease. He would go on to study immune molecules and cells that fight cancer at the University of Arizona Cancer Center before becoming a professor at Arizona State University (ASU). Here at ASU, he continues to study cancer treatments, and creates tests for Valley Fever and COVID-19. Besides spending time in the lab, he teaches the next generation of scientists about disease and immunity.

Finding the Right Path For You

Two 3D printers

Lake is a builder, whether he's building antibodies, tests for them, or trinkets at home. The trick to enjoying your career is to make it about something that you love to do. Image of a 3D printer by Karina Grabowska via Pixabay.

Throughout his life, Lake has always had his eye on new designs and technologies that can make our world a little better. When Lake pulls up to the lab in his electric vehicle he feels like he is driving the future. When he leaves the lab, he heads home to his family, and might spend some time printing out useful tools and trinkets with his 3D-printer. If Lake wasn’t a scientist, he’d probably still be a builder, but maybe he would build buildings instead of molecules so he could see what he is building with his own eyes.

To Lake, finding a career path is not just about working hard, it’s also about finding your passion, and making that your career. If you do this, your career is not really work, and it is much easier to stay happy with what you do. By doing what makes him happy, Lake has found success in his research career. He will continue to do research with the hope of helping many people around the world.


Detect and Protect was created in collaboration with The Biodesign Institute at ASU.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Career Path: Douglas Lake
  • Author(s): Tyler Quigley
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: June 7, 2022
  • Date accessed: September 29, 2022
  • Link: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-Doug-Lake

APA Style

Tyler Quigley. (2022, June 07). Career Path: Douglas Lake. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved September 29, 2022 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-Doug-Lake

American Psychological Association. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

Chicago Manual of Style

Tyler Quigley. "Career Path: Douglas Lake". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 07 June, 2022. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-Doug-Lake

MLA 2017 Style

Tyler Quigley. "Career Path: Douglas Lake". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 07 Jun 2022. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 29 Sep 2022. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-Doug-Lake

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/
A headshot of immunologist Douglas Lake, of Arizona State University

Douglas Lake has spent his career building tools to help detect and fight a variety of viruses.

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