Our April Ambassador of the month is Theodorus van den Broek, Clinical resident medical microbiology and Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Translational Immunology (CTI) and the medical microbiology department, University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), The Netherlands. Theo has contributed to Immunopeadie by writing multiple research summaries. He also recently took part in the Nature Webcast Series on How to master peer review.
Research interests: T cell development, regulation and plasticity, and their role in generating protective immunity (in early life)
- T. van den Broek. (2020) How I started a journal for postdoctoral researchers. Nature
- T. van den Broek & J.Gould. (2020) Coronavirus: postdoc winners need paid extensions. Nature Jul
- T. van den Broek, J.A.M. Borghans & F. van Wijk (2018). The full spectrum of human naïve T cells. Nat Rev Immunol.
Why I love immunology: The immune system is an intriguing and complex system that can recognize self from non-self and has the potential to eliminate harmful molecules and cells. This system needs to be appropriately balanced as a disbalance can result in persistent and chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, and cancers, among other things. Of particular personal interest is how the immune develops during the early stages of life and adapts to a plethora of immune stimuli, as well as the evident differences between aged and young immune cells and their role in immunity. The system’s overall complexity and its continuous involvement in all areas of biology make it a fascinating field of study.
If I weren’t an immunologist, I would be: Medical doctor
Tips for young people who want to enter the field of immunology: You have to be intrigued and fascinated by the concept of immunology, as in any field of study, as the system’s complexity might initially be overwhelming. The area of immunology is in continuous movement. The discovery of new cell types, functions, disease associations, and new techniques makes it a very dynamic environment in which novel research fields continuously develop.
Also, I would advise you to find a great mentor. A mentor can fuel or halt your enthusiasm in immunology and general research interest. It is essential that your mentor has a clear interest in teaching and training the next generation of immunologists.
What being an Immunopaedia Ambassador means to me: I believe that the next generation of scientists’ training and education plays a massive part in the overall understanding and expansion of scientific knowledge in the long run. Being part of the Immunopaedia community provides me with the opportunity to contribute to immunology education and training on an international level. Being an ambassador makes me very proud and I am glad to able to contribute to its growth.
How I have contributed to Immunopaedia so far:
I have contributed three articles to the breakings news page and I try to promote Immunopaedia at every opportunity.
- Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation cures HIV
- Class-switch recombination of antibodies occurs prior to germinal center formation.
- Lack of interference by type I interferons leads to severe COVID-19
This month’s ambassador of the month is Vanessa Mwebaza Muwanga, Doctoral candidate at the University of Cape Town. Vanessa officially joined the Immunopeadia team in early 2020, however, she has been contributing to the website since early 2019. Vanessa has written multiple immunology summaries on Tuberculosis immunology and recently conducted two Immunologist of the month interviews of FATOUMATTA DARBOE and SIMON KIMUDA.
Research interests: Tuberculosis diagnostics, host-directed therapies, co-morbidities i.e. TB and type II diabetes and the role of PD-1 in TB disease progression especially in individuals with HIV.
My PhD project involves analysing multiple transcriptomic signatures and identifying one that highest potential to move forward for development of a point-of-care diagnostic test for TB.
The pandemic in 2020 definitely set my timelines back as far as carrying out any lab work was concerned. I decided to channel my energies more towards accomplishing each project milestone that did not require me being in the laboratory. I also had to find new ways to effectively communicate remotely with other members of my research team as we all worked from home.
Why I love immunology:The immune system is one of the most intelligent and fascinating systems of the body that also plays a very vital role in keeping us alive and healthy. There is still so much left for us to discover and understand about how the immune system operates and I want to contribute to those discoveries.
If I wasn’t an immunologist I would be: a baker and a writer.
Tips for young people who want to enter the field of immunology: Good mentorship is everything so please invest in it. Do not let yourself progress your career alone when there are people out there willing to guide you through. The field of Immunology is constantly evolving so it is very important to keep up to date with the latest literature so that one has the opportunity to enhance their current research, but also develop new ideas based on what is happening now.
What being an Immunopaedia Ambassador means to me: It has provided me with an opportunity to showcase my scientific writing skills, stay up to date with upcoming research in the field of Immunology but also highlight the work done by very amazing Immunologists the world over but within Africa in particular.
How I have contributed to Immunopaedia so far: I have written 5 breaking news articles that can be found on the Immunopaedia website:
- TB episode following PD-1 blockade
- Targeting the metabolic profile of latently infected macrophages as a potential treatment for HIV
- Aiding TB vaccine studies with the use of a mycobacterial growth inhibition assay
- The emerging role of IL-26 in fighting against intracellular microbes
- Impact of intermediate hyperglycaemia and diabetes on immune dysfunction in TB
I have also carried out interviews with two young budding Immunologists, Simon G. Kimuda & Fatoumatta Darboe, that are featured in the February and March (2021) Immunopaedia newsletters, respectively.
This month’s Ambassador of the month is Rebecca Chukwuanukwu, Lecturer and Research Scientist based at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka (Nigeria). Rebecca joined the Immunopaedia team in early 2020, despite being a relatively new to the family, she made an enormous contribution as one of the Rapporteurs for the Immuno-Ethiopia course that took place last year (pre-COVID lockdown). During the course, she also interviewed many of the faculty members: Claire J Hoving; Hans-Martin Jäck; Fabienne Tacchini-Cottier and David Sacks. Rebecca’s research interests include immunity to tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.
“Their overlapping epidemiology led me to study the modulation of the immune system in these diseases and in co-infection. I am currently working on a project on Hepatitis among pregnant women. I am also interested in vaccine design and adverse events of vaccination.”
My recent publications include:
- Chukwudozie O. S, Chukwuanukwu R.C, Iroanya O.O, Eze D.M, Duru V.C et al.(2020). Attenuated Subcomponent Vaccine Design Targeting the SARS-COV-2 Nucleocapsid Phosphoprotein RNA Binding Domain: In Silico Analysis. Journal of Immunology Research. Article ID 2837670. https;//doi.org/10.1155/2020/2837670
- Chukwuanukwu R.C, Uchenna N.O, Mbagwu S.I, Chukwuanukwu T.O (2019).Cryptoccocus neoformans seropositivity and some haematologic parameters in HIV seropositive subjects. Journal of Infection and public Health. 13 (7),1042-1046.
- Chukwuanukwu R.C, Onyenekwe C., Martinez-Pomares L., Singh S., Amilo G., Agbakoba N., Okoye J. (2017). Modulation of the immune responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis during malaria/ tuberculosis co-infection. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 187(2): 259-268.
Why I love immunology: I just love that everything is somehow connected [to the immune system]. Ever since I came across Immunology, I have been intrigued by this field. Vast, amazing, deep and interesting. There’s so much of it that you can find an area to love.
If I wasn’t an immunologist I would be: I would be a haematologist. I had the opportunity to start studying haematology first before my love for Immunology won and I changed direction and started a second Masters degree in Immunology & Allergy.
Tips for young people who want to enter the field of immunology: Immunology is a relatively new field in medical science and there is still lots of space and loads of uncharted territory. It may appear difficult at first especially if you are coming from certain backgrounds (with limited exposure to the field). It could take a lot of background study. If you love it, follow your heart. Where there is a will there is a way. Finally, don’t forget to get yourself a mentor.
Women and Girls in Science: There continues to be a wide gender gap with much fewer females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The strong patriarchy system in Africa continues to drive this disparity. The more enlightened a family/community, the better the chances that females are not just given a chance but encouraged to pursue their dreams in STEM. Girls and women have been conditioned to believe that certain areas are for males. Intentional re-orientation and advocacy programs targeted at girls in secondary schools drive positive change. This I believe and try to support by getting involved. Having female role models are quite useful as well. I am always pleased to give career talks, health talks, or any other opportunity to pass the message across to young females. Knowledge is power.
What being an Immunopaedia Ambassador means to me: It means I get an opportunity to contribute to knowledge about the field of Immunology. It means I am willing to support those behind this laudable Immunopaedia project of advancing global Immunology education any way and whenever I can. It also means I encourage others to take advantage of the resources and opportunities on the website which encourage global sharing of knowledge and information.
How I have contributed to Immunopaedia so far: I am relatively new to Immunopeadia but so far, I have worked as a rapporteur. For this task, I helped summarise talks/lectures given by resource persons during Immuno-Ethiopia training program for the Immunopaedia website:
- Immuno-Ethiopia: Fungal epidemiology and immunology
- Immuno-Ethiopia: Malaria Highlight 2
- Immuno-Ethiopia: Malaria Highlight 1
I have also had the opportunity and pleasure of conducting video interviews of eminent Immunologists: Professor Hans-Martin Jäck Interview, Head of the division of molecular Immunology, Freidrich-Alexander University Erlangen; Fabienne Tacchini-Cottier, Director of WHO Immunology Research & training institute and Associate Professor, University of Lausanne; David Sacks of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious diseases, Bethesda and Claire J Hoving Interviewof the institute of infectious diseases & molecular medicine. University of Cape Town. These are also posted on the Immunopaedia website.
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