Afternoon of Science Series: Department of Microbiology & Immunology

The Afternoon of Science series at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons continued Nov. 16 with presentations from Department of Microbiology & Immunology faculty members.

The event was hosted by Sankar Ghosh, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, who spoke about the department’s history and recent years of significant change. The department focused primarily on microbiology for much of its history but began to expand into immunology after Ghosh’s arrival as department chair in 2009. With 20 faculty members, many with joint appointments in other departments at VP&S, the department focuses on diverse fields including pathogen biology, the immune system, and microbial models.

“A strength of our department is this multidisciplinary approach we bring to problems, and we want to nurture that,” Ghosh said in his remarks at the event. “We are a diverse group, and we’ve worked to create a community that explores the interface between these disciplines. That’s where I feel we’ll have a uniting philosophy that brings us together, from basic biology of microbes to immune responses.”

Attendees at the Nov. 16 event included external advisers from Harvard Medical School, Moderna, Rockefeller University, and New York University and P. Roy Vagelos, MD’54, past chair of the board and CEO of Merck & Co.

Presentations were given by the following faculty members:

  • Donna Farber, PhD, the George H. Humphreys II Professor of Surgical Sciences (in Surgery) and Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
    Presentation: “Human immunity in space and time”
    Farber’s research focuses on defining how the immune system responds to pathogens and maintains homeostasis with age. Her research is particularly concerned with understanding how the immune response is localized in tissue sites and how T lymphocytes resident within tissues develop and maintain immunological memory to infection and vaccines.
  • Uttiya Basu, PhD, Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
    Presentation: “Noncoding RNA transcription engineers antibody diversity and causes lymphoma”
    Using B-lymphocytes as a model system, Basu and his team have pioneered studies demonstrating that surveillance via processing and degradation of the non-coding RNA transcriptome is an important mechanism for development and function of mammalian cells and, when compromised, cause genomic instability, immune system dysregulation, and genetic alterations specific to cancer initiation.
  • Jonathan Dworkin, PhD, Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
    Presentation: “Transcriptional regulation during the transition to quiescence”
    Dworkin’s research focuses on the mechanisms used by quiescent cells to survive stressful conditions, such as nutrient limitation, with particular attention on how these strategies affect antibiotic sensitivity including the emergence of tolerance.
  • Ivaylo Ivanov, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
    Presentation: “Microbiota-immune interactions in health and disease”
    Commensal microbes have profound influence on human health. Ivanov’s laboratory studies the immune mechanisms involved in recognition of commensal microbes and how these mechanisms participate in immune health or immune disease.
  • Chi-Min Ho, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
    Presentation: “Integrated structural biology of malaria parasites”
    Ho is interested in understanding how membrane protein complexes mediate host-pathogen interactions in endogenous malaria parasites, using biochemistry and the latest advances in single-particle cryo-electron microscopy and cryoFIB-enabled in situ cryo-electron tomography.

Since June, five departments or centers at VP&S have participated in the Afternoon of Science series, part of a year-long scientific prioritization process designed to facilitate collaboration and coordination across the medical school. Read the recaps from past afternoons.