Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Director of Postdoctoral Programs Office
Teaching InterestsMy education philosophy is driven by my desire to disseminate the knowledge I have gained in biological sciences that I use to advance undergraduate, graduate, and medical school education. I have been fortunate to teach Immunology which I am passionate about. Since 2010 I have organized, directed, and taught “Advanced Topics in Immunology” a required course for Microbiology and Immunology graduate students (Mic-775), the Immunology module of the UM umbrella graduate program (PIBS), and the undergraduate course “your health your immune system and your microbiota” (Mic-202) since 2020. Also, since the launch of the NextGen Medical education curriculum at UM in 2020, I have joined the team facilitating learning through group discussions (four hours/day for 12 weeks). I have also trained six graduate students and five postdoctoral fellows in laboratory settings and served on more than twenty-five thesis committees. In all these settings, I put my best effort into creating a relaxed environment that cultivates real understanding to gain knowledge that the students can use and be successful in their goals.
Research InterestsI was fortunate to receive immunochemistry and molecular biology training in graduate school with Dr. Sten Hammarström (Umeå University, Sweden), where I molecularly cloned Carcinoembryonic antigens and defined them as novel members of the Immunoglobulin superfamily. I then decided to gain a deeper understanding of molecular immunology in my postdoctoral studies with Dr. Fred Alt (Harvard). In the early 90s, the gene encoding Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) was just identified as the cause of primary immunodeficiency disease, XLA. I decided to generate a BTK knockout mouse. I demonstrated unequivocally that in mice, defects in the Btk gene cause X-linked immunodeficiency (Xid) and, in the process, pioneered the cell signaling research in the Alt-lab. I further advanced this line of investigation by placing Btk in the B cell receptor (BCR) signaling to NF-kB after getting my first job at Vanderbilt University, supported by an American Cancer Society Scholar Award and an RO1. The results demonstrating a critical role for BTK in B cell signaling arguably lead to the current use of BTK inhibitors as frontline therapy in B cell cancers (DLBCL, CLL) and under trials for autoimmune diseases. Two additional discoveries from my lab defined the research focus on B cell stage- and signal-dependent survival and activation. One uncovered that the splenic transitional 1 (T1) B cells serve as the first immune tolerance checkpoint after exit from the bone marrow and demonstrated that acquisition of resistance to BCR-induced apoptosis relies on a novel de novo Rel (NF-kB) synthesis pathway required for the induction of anti-apoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family. The second revealed an unexpected requirement for Btk in BAFF receptor-mediated activation of canonical NF-kB pathway, which has since been confirmed by the findings that BAFFR coopts BCR signaling. My current research efforts are focused on the B cell signaling regulation of survival and apoptosis extending into B cell conspiration with T cell helper, T regulatory and innate cells in dysregulation of immune system in autoimmunity and cancer.
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