BA Carleton College, 2014
PhD Yale University, 2019
Immunology, Cell Biology, Microbiology
I am a trained immunologist with a focus on how host immune cells and invading pathogens coexist. My lab focuses on two major questions: (1) How does the immune system sense its environment, and (2) how does the bacteria that reside in the human intestine cause disease.
How Does the Immune System Sense Its Environment
The Nobel Prize in 2021 was awarded to research that discovered how neurons use ion channels to transmit information on force, pressure, and heat. Interestingly, immune cells express these same ion channels. Given how drastically the physical environment changes during an immune response, it might make sense that immune cells must have evolved ways to sense their environment in order to properly tailor their inflammatory response. Our work looks at macrophages, a very special immune cell that coordinates and initiates the immune response in many systems. We can engineer macrophages that lack ion channels and receptors predicted to function in environmental sensing and observe how the response to inflammatory signals becomes altered. This research can help us understand how we can properly regulate the immune response, potentially leading to new areas of therapeutics in many inflammatory diseases.
How Does the Bacteria That Reside in the Human Intestine Cause Disease
In the human body, there are as many bacterial cells as there are human cells. More dauntingly, there are between 10-100x more bacterial genes compared to human genes. This collection of bacteria that exist within our ecosystem are referred to as the microbiome. A significant amount of work has been accomplished to try and understand how the microbiome can cause disease. A role for the microbiome has been established in diseases ranging from cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and nearly everything in between. But most of this research looks at the bacterial species present or absent in individuals with disease. In my lab, we are interested in understanding how the microbiome genes themselves function in disease progression. To accomplish this, we are generating a screening technique that can enrich for genes with disease-potentiating phenotypes, and characterizing these newly discovered functions in various biochemical, genetic, and immunological assays.
If you are interested in doing research with us, please send me an email!