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.