WHAT DREW YOU TO THE FIELD OF IMMUNOLOGY?
I always found it fascinating that we have an immune system that protects us from microbes. Initially, I wanted to focus my studies on genetics to understand why some people are more susceptible to diseases than others. But as I started studying the field of immunogenetics, I soon became intrigued by how the immune system is deeply connected to many other systems in the body, and how immune cells are often implicated in diseases, such as in autoimmunity, infections, and cancer. I decided to study immunology because I was interested in investigating ways to modulate one’s immune system, almost like turning an immune rheostat, to perhaps one day help develop therapies that treat immune-mediated diseases.
CAN YOU SHARE A DEFINING MOMENT IN YOUR WORK AS RESEARCHER?
I don’t have one major defining moment in my work, but rather a collection of moments and decisions that have brought me to where I am in my career. But one important moment to me was attending a series of workshops in bioinformatics during my graduate studies. I was already studying immunology, but was really interested in utilizing computational analysis tools to better understand the immune system. That was a turning point in my career. Pursuing that path led me to where I am now, which involved studying the human immune system with state-of-the-art computational methods.
HOW WILL THE MICHELSON PRIZE HELP YOU WITH YOUR FUTURE RESEARCH?
We currently know that males and females have differences in disease susceptibility and severity, and that the immune system can function differently between the sexes. The Michelson Prize will help me dive deeper and investigate how such differences arise in humans. This is a great opportunity for me to pursue questions that have long intrigued me: I will investigate how testosterone affects the human immune system – including its cells, proteins, and RNA – using very advanced techniques/methodologies and computational methods. I am excited to pursue this project and help advance our knowledge of how sex hormones impact the human immune function to pave the way towards both, designing novel immunomodulatory therapies and taking biological sex into account for prevention and treatment.