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Kenneth Hu, PhD

Parker Scholar


My research career has focused on developing and adapting methods towards exposing new dimensions of complex biological systems, of which the immune system serves as an excellent model. I had my first taste of biological research in Dr. Susan Rosenberg’s lab at Baylor College of Medicine, studying mechanisms linking stress response and DNA damage repair in E. coli. I began my journey in immunology as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Dr. Jeroen Saeij. There I used a quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping pipeline to illuminate host susceptibility factors to T. gondii infection. As a graduate student in Dr. Manish Butte’s lab, I ventured into the growing field of mechanobiology and addressed the need for methods to both measure and apply cell-scale mechanical forces. In my time at Stanford, I adapted atomic force microscopy (AFM) towards measurement of live single cell-generated forces and mechanical properties. This work revealed a link between cytoskeletal rearrangement, force generation, and recognition of antigen by T cells, a critical step in mounting an immune response. Furthermore, I demonstrated how cell mechanical properties and cytoskeletal state could prime T cell sensitivity, suggesting another axis for immune modulation.

Through my exposure to questions in immunology, I became fascinated by the complexity of the immune system, especially in the context of the tumor microenvironment. As a Parker Scholar at UCSF in the lab of Dr. Matthew Krummel, I will be working on developing methods for merging the information we gain from single cell profiling and microscopy to describe cell-cell interaction networks that drive the immune response in situ. I hope to apply this approach towards studying how spatial heterogeneity in tumors shapes local immune cell activity and thus, responsiveness to checkpoint blockade therapy.

Education & Training

  • 2012: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, BS, Biology
  • 2017: Stanford University, Stanford, PhD, Biophysics

Awards & Honors

  • 2020: American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2019: Parker Institute Scholar
  • 2017: UCSF Institutional Training Grant T32