BLaST Scientist of the Month for February 2022: Samantha Wade

A woman in a lab coat works in a laboratory
BLaST photo by Amy Topkok
Samantha Wade, seen here working in a UAF lab, is the February 2022 BLaST Scientist of the Month.

The Biomedical Learning and Student Training program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks highlights scientists from all biomedical fields through the Scientist of the Month articles.

These articles are shared across UAF and University of Alaska Southeast campuses, and all BLaST partner institutions, which include Iļisaġvik College, Fort Lewis College, Diné College, Salish Kootenai College and Alaska Pacific University. The Scientists of the Month flyers may be found on the BLaST website at

Samantha Wade, who is of Inupiaq descent, is a senior pursuing a B.S. in biological sciences with a concentration in physiology. Wade is a fourth-year BLaST Scholar and holds an officer title in the UAF Pre-Medical Society. Wade was born and raised in Wainwright, Alaska, and attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, where she was valedictorian for the class of 2018. She is a first-generation college student and plans to graduate by end of April 2022. She is interested in climate change and how it affects the Arctic and the One Health issues that arise from it. Wade plans to attend medical school to become a physician to give back to rural communities in Alaska.

Wade first started her research journey in 2012 when she attended the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science conference after attending a climate change summer camp led by Linda Nicholas-Figueroa. She joined Nicholas-Figueroa’s lab at Ilisagvik College in Utqiagvik in the summer of 2018, where she studied microbes in Arctic soil and their effects on animal health, human health, and the environment.

At UAF, Wade joined Mary Beth Leigh’s lab in the spring of 2019 where she sequenced the genome of an oil-degrading bacterium from the Arctic Ocean. Wade also studied the effects of Micro-Blaze, a nontoxic, microbial formulation used for bioremediation of hydrocarbons and other organic compounds, in its effectiveness in cleaning up diesel-contaminated soil collected in Alaska. Wade also worked in the medical lab in Nome in the summer of 2021, where she utilized her laboratory skills to analyze medical samples, premiered the use of a new polymerase chain reaction machine to analyze local COVID-19 samples and assisted with its phlebotomy department. Wade presented at the 2019 NIH Diversity Program Consortium Conference, the 2019 American Society for Microbiology Conference, and at several Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity research day events.

Wade would like to thank Leigh and Nicholas-Figueroa for guiding her through her research journey.

“I first met Dr. Linda Nicholas-Figueroa when I attended a summer camp, where she taught on climate change in 2012. Attending summer camps is where my passion for science truly grew,” Wade said. “It is now 10 years later where I was able to present research at conferences through her guidance. I am grateful to have met such a wonderful friend, teacher, and mentor.”

“Samantha has never backed away from a challenge and has held true to her word of pursuing a M.D. degree and then planning to return home to service the rural communities of Alaska where she was raised,” Nicholas-Figueroa said. “I am very proud of Samantha, as her mentor and her friend.”

Wade would also like to thank her BLaST RAMP Natalia Podlutskaya and extends gratitude to Leigh lab members Kristin Hruska, Taylor Gofstein and Benjamin Hedges.

More information about the BLaST Scientists of the Month are shared on the BLaST webpage at Any questions about this flyer can be directed at Amy Topkok, BLaST reporting and outreach coordinator at