They come from far and wide, with a variety of backgrounds. But they all want to be scientists and immunobiologists. They chose the graduate training program at Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation and the University of Cincinnati to make that possible.
Pablo C. Alarcon
Senad Divanovic Lab
Research focus: Impact of obesity on influenza disease pathogenesis.
Why did you choose UC? The graduate program here has a real sense of camaraderie. Even during the interview process, I felt that I’d have the support of my fellow students throughout my training. This feeling also extends to the faculty, who actively encourage us to ask questions and collaborate with other PIs.
Why study Immunology? I’ve always been fascinated by the interactions between the immune system and infectious pathogens. This initial curiosity led me to want to better understand how various immune cells can be altered by conditions in the host, and how that will ultimately impact immune responses.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? The immunology program retreats! Spending that time with my peers and PIs in a more relaxed setting really makes you realize how good of friends you can become and the relationships you forge during grad school.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0002-6584-7734
Career aspiration/trajectory: I ultimately want to tie my love for science and immunology with my passion for infectious disease clinical work, completing my MD / PhD and doing basic research with global health applications.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: The food! There is a wonderful variety of cuisine near the university, as well as all over the city. This is highlighted by the various food festivals and restaurant weeks we have throughout the year. Cincy also has a wonderful craft brewery scene, and a really large Oktoberfest celebration.
Research focus: Innate immunity in the neonatal lung.
Why did you choose UC? I had interned at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital as an undergraduate and saw firsthand the collaborative atmosphere of the research here and how that makes for happier researchers and greater results. The University of Cincinnati's proximity to both Cincinnati Children’s and UC Health was a major draw for me. This helps me stay focused on the significance of my research and its long-term impact.
Why study Immunology? Immunology is an incredibly diverse field with applications in every other branch of medicine, so you will be able to use your training in immunology almost wherever you choose to go. My interest in immunology comes from the fact that there are so many people who have health concerns due to some sort of defect in immune response, whether in terms of autoimmune disease, allergies, or cancer. There is so much to still be explored in immunology and with the potential to have a direct impact on people’s lives.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? I will remember the support from the students and faculty.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0003-0940-7707
Career aspiration / trajectory: I plan to stay in academia and pursue a tenure-track position at a research institution.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: Cincinnati is very livable on a graduate student stipend and there’s something for everyone here. You can enjoy many of the attractions of a larger city, without the traffic and high living costs! I play in the local ultimate frisbee leagues, rock climb at one of the indoor gyms, and have just started hiking in some of the nearby parks!
Why did you choose UC? When I interviewed, our program felt like a very welcoming, genuine, and collaborative environment to learn and grow as a scientist. I enjoy that it truly feels like a family within the program, and everyone is always willing to help each other.
Why study Immunology? I’m very interested in understanding how autoimmune and infectious diseases affect the body. I wanted to gain a deep understanding of how the immune system responds to these diseases so that I can develop new therapeutics to mitigate them. Also, immunology overall is a very exciting and ever-expanding field in which there are always new ideas to explore.
If known, where will you be seeking for a job? I plan to obtain a position as a senior scientist in the biotechnology industry where I can apply both my bioengineering background and Immunology expertise. I would also love to be actively involved in mentoring young aspiring scientists and youth.
Favorite thing about Cincinnati? There is always something to do in the city with plenty of places to explore! There are so many different townships that make up Cincinnati, so there are always new restaurants to try and events to attend.
Research focus: NK cell responses to infection and vaccination.
Why did you choose UC? The Immunology Program has an amazing track record of student publications and job placement. Their faculty really let students take charge of their projects, while facilitating a collaborative environment to provide the students a robust scientific experience. The students within the program all seemed so close knit, a definite requirement for a PhD program, and highly supportive of their friends/classmates.
Why study Immunology? Immunology is the backbone to all human physiological responses. By studying its role in responses to infection and vaccination, we will be able to develop more impactful translational medicine.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? The people I’ve worked with, the science I worked on, the mentorship I received.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0002-8053-2431
Career aspiration / trajectory: Industry or government research.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: The Zoo, a bad Reds baseball teams making Cubs tickets cheap, the brewery scene.
Why choose UC? The close relationship with the university and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital allows for a hospitable environment where many people and labs work together. These collaborations stem rigorous, cutting-edge research that brings the scientific community forward.
Why study Immunology? There is nothing boring about Immunology! It’s a complex system that is continuously intriguing and interesting to study. Every finding has a potential implication in a related field and it’s so rewarding to uncover something new that may be translated into making patients’ lives better.
What is your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati? I love attending FC Cincinnati games! As a season ticket holder, it’s a nice way to enjoy the weekends away from the lab. I couldn’t imagine a more enjoyable way to bond with the amazing people of our city and cheer on our team.
Parsippany, New Jersey
Nathan Salomonis Lab
Research focus: My research focuses on identifying clinically significant RNA splicing patterns in cancer, with a specific focus in lung cancer.
Why did you choose UC? I loved the collaborative atmosphere amongst the faculty in the immunology program and how dedicated the faculty appeared in their role as mentors.
Why study Immunology? I chose to study immunology because the immune response is an important aspect in every human disease. Thus, I decided that a foundation in immunology enabled a broad foundation to understand the major issues facing modern medicine.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? I will always remember the support and dedication to the students. This culture is strongly engrained not only amongst fellow graduate students, but is also clear at the level faculty level and from the program heads.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0002-9154-4497
Career aspiration / trajectory: I am interested in pursuing a career in industry after getting my PhD.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: I love how affordable Cincinnati is while still having all of the convenience of a good-sized city.
Research focus: Immunological markers in asthma, allergy and atopic dermatitis.
Why study immunology: Understanding immunology is key to understanding organ systems and disease processes. I am especially interested in immunology in the context of transplants and transplant organ rejection.
Favorite thing about Cincinnati: Bridges Nepali Cuisine in Northside!
Why did you choose UC? I was so interested in the research that was happening in the program, and once I met the people I fell in love with the friendly environment.
Why study Immunology? I was diagnosed with a chronic illness in high school that led me to realize not that much is known about our own immune systems, so I want to help answer some unanswered questions to help others with chronic illness.
Favorite thing about Cincinnati? There is always something to do no matter the time of the week. I absolutely love going to Reds games when I can.
Why study Immunology? The immune system controls many facets of the human body, and immune deficits cause great harm and often early fatality in patients. Understanding the function of this system has the potential to decrease mortality and morbidity in children and adults.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? I’ll always remember the love and passion the faculty here have for their research and their patients, and their optimism and determination to improve the lives of children.
Research focus: The innate cytokine response induced by Clostridioides difficile infection.
Why did you choose UC? I chose the Immunology Graduate Program at University of Cincinnati / Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center because I loved the environment. During my interview, everyone was welcoming, friendly, and passionate about their research. The principal investigators are great mentors, and their labs are all collaborative and successful. I also loved the program’s focus on immunology and its subdisciplines.
Why study Immunology? Immunology is a fascinating field. As cheesy as it sounds, ever since I learned about neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in an undergraduate immunology class, I was hooked. It felt like there was this whole world of complexity and mystery, and I wanted to be part of the efforts to better understand that system.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? The friendships I have made with the people in my program and my lab.
Awards or publications: Leptin Receptor q223r Polymorphism Influences Clostridioides difficile Infection-Induced Neutrophil CXCR2 Expression in an Interleukin-1β Dependent Manner
Emily Miraldi & Leah Kottyan Lab
Research focus: To discover the disease specific genetic components that contribute to juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
Why did you choose UC? I am an MD / PhD student, so I chose the university partly for their amazing medical school. Cincinnati Children's Hospital is one of the leaders in clinical treatment of patients with JIA. Additionally, the Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) fit my research interests perfectly.
Why study Immunology? As a child, I was diagnosed and went through treatment for an autoimmune disease. Even as a kid, I was interested in why my immune system was attacking my own body. In medical school, learning the clinical characteristics of my disease as well as other autoimmune diseases sparked my interest even further.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? The enthusiasm the program has for me to be successful.
Awards or publications: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1742706119305343
Favorite thing about Cincinnati: The food is top tier!
I received my bachelor of science degree from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio and joined the Immunology graduate program at Cincinnati Children’s in 2018. My graduate work focuses on how IL-1b mediates the cross-talk between the innate and adaptive immune system during autoimmune inflammation. In a separate project, I am interested in identifying the molecular mechanisms by which VPS33b (vacuolar protein sorting-associated protein 33b) regulates pattern recognition receptor signaling and mediates downstream production of type 1 IFNs.
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Senad Divanovic Lab
Research focus: Immunopathogenesis of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Why study Immunology? I chose to study immunology because it’s such a broad field and encompasses so many other disciplines. There aren’t that many, if any other fields that immunology can’t be applied to. It also allows me to broaden my horizons to so many other fields that I don’t think I would have been able to get in other programs.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? The thing that I will remember the most about our program is how the entire department is like one big family. From the PIs to lab mates to fellow students in the program I enjoyed the family like structure that our program has! Everyone is collaborative and wants to see you succeed as a scientist.
Research focus: Targeting plasma cell survival mechanisms to desensitize patients awaiting transplantation.
Why did you choose UC? The breadth of research in the Immunology Division. Most programs I looked at were dominated by microbiology but Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center uniquely covers almost all areas of immunology – transplantation, maternal-fetal tolerance, microbiome, autoimmunity, allergy, etc … and yes, microbiology as well!
Why study Immunology? You can find a role for the immune system in every area of medicine/body system and it’s typically underappreciated. I’m an MD / PhD student so for me, being able to apply my research field to where ever I end up clinically is important. The opportunity to significantly impact patient outcomes and move niche fields forward is exciting.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? The collaborative nature and friendliness of faculty, staff, and students.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0003-0629-0603
Career aspiration/trajectory: I have quite a bit of training left after my PhD but as of now I’m thinking dermatology.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: Affordability (my husband and I bought a house), green spaces (so many parks and beautiful hills), unique restaurants and bars, and proximity to other cool cities that makes for great weekend trips.
Dr. Senad Divanovic’s lab
Research focus: My graduate training aims to uncover underlying effects of housing temperature on the murine immune system.
Why did you choose UC? I chose the University of Cincinnati because I felt both the medical and scientific communities here fostered a sense of family.
Why study Immunology? From an experimental perspective, I feel immunological research utilizes most of the techniques that biological research has to offer, so I was drawn to how a question can be answered in a multitude of ways. From a clinical perspective, I was intrigued at the omnipresence of the immune system in animal pathophysiology (after all, most diseases in the body can be classified as “inflammation”), and thus the therapeutic potential of immunological research.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? Good people, good times.
Awards or publications: Albert B. Sabin Fellowship
If known, where will you be seeking for a job? Hopefully back in the east coast, but we’ll see!
Favorite thing about Cincinnati? A city with a small-town feel. Also because we’re on the western side of the eastern time zone, we get daylight until a little later in the day compared to east coast. cities.
Anna University, India
Research focus: Crosstalk of IL-13 and IL-17A in allergic asthma.
Why did you choose UC? My master’s mentors did their PhD at University of Cincinnati / Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. They are my inspiration to choose the University of Cincinnati. Also, the university's collaboration with Cincinnati Children's gives the feel of both student and research life. I love immunology, so I was looking for graduate program with immunology expertise, and breakthrough research, our program has all of those. Plus, the Cincinnati environment is lively and enjoyable.
Why study Immunology? Most of the disease in current century involves immune system, I like the way immune system works in both the extremes (over reactivity or suppressive). Studying them will help us cure many diseases. Also, it’s a very interesting field and I am very passionate about it since I started studying them in my masters.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? Immunology retreat events. It's pretty fun and learning at the same time.
Favorite thing about Cincinnati: Cincinnati downtown, Eden Park and I love to hang out at UC main campus.
Research focus: Single-cell analysis of kidney transplant rejection.
Why did you choose UC? The collaborative environment here at University of Cincinnati / Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center was what drove me here. I enjoy talking to and working with people across various department and specialties to take advantage of all the expertise we have here.
Why study Immunology? I’ve always been interested in the immune system’s role in various pathologies, and it seemed like a natural fit after studying immunology for my undergraduate major.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? Mentorship from faculty and students. Everyone is willing to listen and help however they can.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0001-5759-3394
Career aspiration / trajectory: Surgeon-scientist.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: Cost of living, variety of restaurants.
Research focus: Tumor necrosis factor superfamily (TNFSF) member control of airway inflammation and fibrosis.
Why did you choose UC? The partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital allows the research to have incredible translational potential, with opportunities for physician collaborations and access to cutting-edge technologies.
Why study Immunology? The study of immunology is vast and key to our understanding of almost any disease, with immense clinical relevance. It is essential for us to understand the intricacies of the immune system in order to develop novel therapeutics and innovative treatment strategies for human disease.
Awards or publications: Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0001-9107-5742
Steele H, Sachen K, McKnight AJ, Soloff R, Herro R. Targeting TL1A/DR3 Signaling Offers a Therapeutic Advantage to Neutralizing IL13/IL4Rα in Muco-Secretory Fibrotic Disorders. Front Immunol. 2021 Jul 8;12:692127. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.692127. PMID: 34305924; PMCID: PMC8299868.
Steele H, Song B, Willicut A, Grimes HL, Herro R. Isolation of primary immune cells from fibrotic skin, esophageal, and gut tissue. J Immunol Methods. 2021 Aug 2;497:113107. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2021.113107. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34352237.
Research focus: Early-life pulmonary immune system development and response to pneumonia.
Why did you choose UC? I chose the University of Cincinnati because it has amazing opportunities, both in research and general, but is also tight knit enough that I felt everyone truly cared about me as a person! That combined with such a deep history in immunology and an outstanding children’s hospital made it an easy decision.
Why study Immunology? My main passion in science is immunology because it has such a beautiful level of sophistication. The immune system has evolved to do such an amazing job in so many areas, including host defense, but it has to be exquisitely regulated to avoid harming host tissues in the process. This finely tuned, double-edged sword drives me to understand it fully, so that I can hopefully leverage thoughtful, effective immunotherapies for patients in the future while avoiding any associated risks.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? The people! I’ve made so many friends here at all levels, and beyond the science they are the ones who truly make this place so unique.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0002-2691-5765
Career aspiration / trajectory: My career aspiration focuses on treating kids as some sort of pediatric specialist and running an immunology lab that can utilize translational research to better treat these patients!
Favorite things about Cincinnati: Cincinnati is my favorite city because it has so much character and such a blend of neighborhoods that truly fit any sort of description you could want! There’s always something to explore - I love the food, breweries, festivals, and beautiful parks.
Why did you choose UC? The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital relationship with the program really drove me here! It makes for the perfect place to study immunology, allowing for a close relationship among researchers and physicians. In addition, the atmosphere of the university and Children’s program is extremely collaborative which was evident even throughout virtual interviews!
Why study Immunology? I’ve always had an interest in the immune system and our body’s ability to fight a variety of pathogens. After studying biology in undergrad, I found that my true interests aligned back with immune system and immunology as there is so much to still figure out along with a broad array of topics within the field to research.
Favorite thing about Cincinnati: The affordability while still being a decently sized city. Not to mention the numerous amounts of restaurants, bars and breweries that never leave you bored and always have you trying somewhere new!
Tampere, Finland / Phoenix, Arizona
Leah Kottyan Lab
Research focus: Genetic Etiology of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
Why did you choose UC? The University of Cincinnati has a very unique research environment, with opportunities to do impactful basic science and translational research. There is also a diverse array of research topics available to choose from.
Why study Immunology? Immunology is a very exciting basic science that branches into basically every area of human health, and field is only growing. You really can’t go wrong choosing a field like immunology - there are so many aspects of the immune system we still don’t fully understand, and research here is at the cutting edge.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? My interview experience was amazing and really helped me decide that this program was for me.
ORCID ID: 0000-0001-5331-7384
If known, where will you be seeking for a job? I plan to do a post-doc after graduate school and then potentially pursue a career in academia or government research.
Favorite thing about Cincinnati? Cincinnati is a very affordable place to live for a graduate student.
Research focus: Role of innate and adaptive immune responses in the progression of cardiac disease.
Why did you choose UC? During my interview it was clear how friendly and welcoming both the students and staff are. The atmosphere is very supportive, and everyone is genuinely interested in helping students succeed.
Why study Immunology? I love that immunology isn’t confined to one organ system or pathology but is relevant to nearly all aspects of health and disease. I think this means that discoveries in the mechanisms of immunity have the potential to ultimately benefit a wider range of patients.
Awards or publications: ORCID ID 0000-0002-9385-3365
Research focus: HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein trafficking and viral assembly.
Why choose UC? University of Cincinnati, combined with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, has world class medical and research facilities located in an ever growing and increasingly vibrant urban center that leaves little lacking for fulfillment in both work and social opportunities. There is a great potential for discovery in one's work with the breadth of dedicated faculty and students in many far reaching and overlapping fields of study as well as in life outside of work with abundant chances to engage in groups of diverse areas of interest around the city.
Why study Immunology? Studying immunology gives you the opportunity to engage in almost any area of medicinal science because of the critical role the immune system inevitably plays in not only illness and disease, but also homeostasis and health maintenance. From cancer biology to infectious disease, pregnancy to transplant therapy, and allergy to vaccine development, knowledge of immune mechanisms will allow insights and openings into a vast array of potential research foci.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? The people here at Cincinnati – from faculty to post-docs to students and administrators – are really what makes the program so special. Every year we take an overnight retreat to discuss our work and also have some fun together as co-workers. During these weekends it is particularly evident how passionate everyone is about their work and how committed everyone is to seeing colleges succeed, always offering advice and friendship when it is needed. These are times that are certainly ones that will be remembered.
Research focus: The Developing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Niche.
Why did you choose UC? The opportunity to conduct rigorous, high-impact biomedical research that will impact future therapeutic approaches toward diseases that remain evasive today.
Why study Immunology? Novel therapies for rare diseases will be heavily dependent upon our understanding of hematology and immunology. It is up to future scientists like us to uncover new biology and advance this understanding for better treatment strategies moving forward.
What will be the thing years from now that you'll remember about the program? The friends I have made and the moments when I discovered new science.
Publication ORCID ID Number: 0000-0001-6250-3170
Career aspiration / trajectory: Industry.
Favorite things about Cincinnati: The cultural diversity of the people here and the reflection of that in the businesses in and around Cincinnati.
Why choose UC? State-of-the-art experimental facilities and exceptional faculty.
Why study Immunology? Immunology provides people with insights in answering both translational medicine and basic biology questions. Take the germinal center (GC) response for example. On one hand, a better understanding of GC response promotes the development of new vaccination strategies, on the other hand, antibody affinity maturation during GC response reflects the ‘survival of the fittest’ previously described by Charles Darwin, which helps us to illustrate evolutionary theory at a molecular level.
What will be the thing years from now that you’ll remember about the program? The program is based on a hospital environment, which enables me to see the aid of basic immunology research in helping the patients. Besides, students in the program are very nice, they help me a lot in adjusting to life in the United States.