We are thrilled to welcome our newest graduate student, Elizabeth Turcotte, to the lab. Elizabeth hails from Cedar Falls Iowa, and attended the University of Northern Iowa, where she worked on Leishmania with Dr. Nilda Rodriguez. Elizabeth then did a 2-year postbac at the NIH studying mitosis in the lab of Dr. Mary Dasso. She is happy to be back in the world of host-pathogen interactions. When not in lab, you can find Elizabeth at home looking after her 2 cats, her tortoise, and her fish.
The lab was thrilled to learn that Kristen Witt has been awarded an NSF Graduate Student Fellowship. Kristen is studying the regulation of the interferon response to infection, with a particular eye towards dissecting its biochemical and structural basis. We are all happy for Kristen to earn this well-deserved ego-boost just before her qualifying exam on April 30.
The lab is delighted to welcome Dmitri Kotov as a new postdoctoral fellow to the lab. Dmitri joins us from the great state of Minnesota, where he was a graduate student in Marc Jenkins lab. During his PhD, Dmitri published three first author papers (link, link, link) on, what else, various aspects of T cell biology. For his postdoctoral work, Dmitri has bravely decided to leave the safe harbor of small round lymphocytes and is setting off to tackle the immunology of tuberculosis. We are looking forward to seeing how new tools can tackle old questions, and uncover new questions at the same time.
We recently posted our first paper on Mycobacterium tuberculosis on Biorxiv. This was a big step for the lab, as I have been talking about getting into TB research for years, but with little to show for all the talk! Credit is due to many, first and foremost, to Daisy Ji, who bravely took on TB relatively late in her PhD, and who worked incredibly hard to pull it off. Nothing would have happened if it were not for a sabbatical visit to the lab from Heran Darwin who not only trained us but inspired us to believe that it really was possible to make progress on this difficult pathogen! Our TB colleagues at Berkeley, including Sarah Stanley and Jeff Cox and the members of their labs, were essential in helping us navigate all the complexities of working with a BSL3 pathogen. The Sst1S mice were originally produced and characterized through the heroic efforts of our collaborator, Igor Kramnik. It has been great to get to know the wider TB community and we are looking forward to feedback on this work and our continuing efforts on TB.
Today we had the honor of a visit from former lab manager Katia Troha, who delivered an outstanding seminar on her PhD Thesis work in the Buchon and Lazzaro Labs at Cornell University. Katia was in the Vance Lab from 2008-2012. Her claim to fame in the Vance Lab was running the ENU mutagenesis project that identified the STING-deficient goldenticket mouse, now in use in laboratories around the world. Katia was also the first to propose that STING might be a direct receptor for cyclic-dinucleotides (an idea foolishly dismissed by her PI at the time). During her PhD, Katia has uncovered a very interesting role for the CrebA transcription factor in mediating tolerance to infection. We can’t wait to see who will win the sweepstakes to have Katia join their lab as a postdoctoral fellow!
July 6, 2018 — Kick-in-a-box, a rag-tag group (comprised of Vance and Barton Lab members, other immunologists past and present, and other hangers-on) fought a tense semi-final kickball battle against The Unicorns before eventually succumbing 3-2 in extra innings. Especially notable was the two RKIs (runs kicked-in) by Daisy Ji, as well as the large number of international free-agents on the team, who demonstrated their mastery of the finer points of force plays, base-running, and kicking the ball on the ground. Congrats to all! What a relief to be able to enjoy a beer in the stands and watch the Finals (eventually won in impressive fashion by Stray Kats)
Kick-in-a-box after the semi-final
Back row (from L to R): Russell, Benjamin, Daisy, Klemens, Bella, Moritz and Kathleen
Front row (from L to R): Andrew, Lívia, Lieselotte, Natalie, Patrick, Molly and Gustavo
We are excited to have a new postdoctoral fellow join the lab this week. Moritz Gaidt completed his PhD training in Germany in the lab of Veit Hornung, where he did some very beautiful work on inflammasomes and the STING pathway in human cells. One of his papers from his graduate work showed that human monocytes activate an ‘alternative’ NLRP3 inflammasome pathway that depends on TLR4-TRIF-RIPK1 (instead of the canonical pathway that depends on K+ efflux). More recently, Moritz reported that in human myeloid cells, cytosolic DNA activates an inflammasome response that depends on the cGAS–STING signaling pathway instead of the AIM2 pathway. We are excited to have Moritz in the lab to get us thinking more about human inflammasome pathways — and hopefully Moritz will be able to learn a few things about mouse genetics and in vivo analyses from us as well. With Moritz from Germany, and the recent arrival of a Brazilian, the Vance Lab is becoming ever more international. There will undoubtedly be lots of opportunities for trash talking in the upcoming World Cup.
The Vance Lab is thrilled to welcome Gustavo Quirino, a visiting graduate student from Brazil (where he works in the laboratory of Dario Zamboni). Gustavo will be in the lab for six months (until November) and will be working on a variety of Legionella-related projects. We are also hoping that his Brazilian-inborn abilities on the soccer field will translate to the kickball field. Welcome to Berkeley Gustavo!
The 11th annual joint Barton Lab-Vance Lab picnic and bocce tournament was held at Lake Temescal today in winter-like conditions. The weather proved no impediment to the eventual tourney victors, The Sugar Daddies (Greg and Russell), who emerged victorious despite some especially valiant competition from Team Enthusiasm (Kathleen and Beth) in the finals. (Updated 6-13-18 to reflect engravement of championship plaque, see photo below).
Justin — fondly referred to as JR or “Junior” in the lab — passed his qualifying exam this week. The lab celebrated by cutting his hair. Regrettably, photos of the intermediate mullet stage were not available at press time. In honor of Justin’s passing resemblance to a certain boy who lived, the qual party adopted a Harry Potter theme, complete with a brilliant and completely re-imagined lab logo (below). We are all looking forward to next year’s celebration, when the newest graduate student in the lab, Kristen “Hermione” Witt, passes her qual and celebrates by transfiguring lab manager Peter “Ron Weasley” Dietzen into a small furry rodent.