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Research Highlights

Mary Moran and University of Rochester Science Policy Initiative (UR SPI) Memo Team awarded Honorable Mention in National Science Policy Memo Competition

A team of UR graduate students, Katherine Andersh, Zanah Francis, Mary Moran, and Emily Quarato, were awarded Honorable Mention in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance and National Science Policy Network International Science Policy Memo Competition.  This competition was centered around the theme of intersectional science policy with a focus on issues related to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in science. Their memo titled Period Poverty: A risk factor for people who menstruate in STEM has been published in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance. Their memo highlights how period poverty - the inability to access and afford menstrual hygiene products, contributes to school absences and places menstruators at a disadvantage in STEM education and careers, and advocates for instituting a requirement that all public K-12 schools provide free menstrual hygiene products to students. The team also placed first in the UR SPI Policy Memo Competition this past August.

 Congratulations, Mary!

Immunology PhD candidate, Cassandra Houser, awarded F31 pre-doctoral fellowship from NIEHS

Cassandra Houser, a 4th year Immunology PhD candidate in Dr. B Paige Lawrence’s lab, was awarded an F31 predoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). F31 fellowships supported by the NIEHS are expected to focus on the environmental health sciences. This initiative seeks to enable promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields that are relevant to the NIEHS mission.

Cassandra’s fellowship will focus on determining how the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), an environmental sensing transcription factor widely expressed within the immune system, regulates humoral immunity during respiratory viral infection.

Congratulations, Cassandra!

Andrew Martin is advancing his career with the AAI Advanced Course in Immunology 

Each year, the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) offers advanced courses in immunology that incorporate 25 lectures, live panel discussions, and breakout sections to learn and share perspectives on a range of immunological topics. Attendees need a firm understanding of the basic principles of immunology and laboratory techniques to participate in the course successfully. 

“I am registered for and planning to expand my knowledge of immunology through the AAI Advanced Course in Immunology. This course is set up to update and expand on my current knowledge in the field of immunology by interacting with a diverse selection of students/researchers. Many of my immunology peers have had great things to say about the course in the past when they took it. I hope to meet and develop connections with not only the world-renowned immunologists presenting recent advances in the field, but also the students that are attending from different backgrounds and institutions.”

Good luck, Andrew!

Andrea Amitrano publishes a first-author paper and accepts a postdoctoral position at Roswell Park Cancer Center

Andrea Amitrano is a 5th year Pathology PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Minsoo Kim. Andrea recently published her first, first-author paper titled, Optical Control of CD8+ T Cell Metabolism and Effector Functions in Frontiers of Immunology. In addition, Andrea accepted a postdoctoral position in the lab of Dr. Scott Abram’s at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. 

Great work, Andrea! 

Amitrano AM, Berry BJ, Lim K, Kim KD, Waugh RE, Wojtovich AP, Kim M. Optical Control of CD8+ T Cell Metabolism and Effector Functions. Frontiers in Immunology, 2021. Doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.66623

Meet our 2020-2021 Trainees: Why we came to graduate school and our future plans

Photo of Immunology T32 2020-2021 Trainees

Andrea Amitrano: I decided to attend graduate school because I really enjoyed my research experience during my undergraduate studies. Attending graduate school has allowed me to further develop my skills as a scientist and as a critical thinker. After I complete my PhD, I plan to pursue a career in translational cancer biology research.

Cassandra Houser: I decided to pursue a PhD because I was fascinated by the science and enjoyed exchanging novel ideas with other people around me. Looking forward, I want to apply my scientific knowledge and skills in a way that positively impacts human health. I want to help discover new avenues of research that will lead to new therapies for those burdened by disease and preventative treatments for those healthy individuals that are at risk.

Andy Martin: During my undergraduate education, I discovered a passion for research and for teaching. To pursue these interests, I joined the University of Rochester as a Master’s student where I got a feel for high-level research and met a wealth of knowledgeable and friendly peers and faculty members. Once I received my Master’s, I knew I wanted to continue my quest for knowledge and receive a PhD here at the University of Rochester. Upon receiving my PhD, I would like to “return to my roots” by teaching at a small public liberal arts college. I hope to inspire budding researchers (or even non-science majors) to pursue their interests and develop a passion for research as they contemplate going to graduate school themselves.

Chantelle White: Prior to joining graduate school, I worked for several years in the clinical research setting. While I initially chose this position for the clinical experience, it was ultimately the research side of my position that captivated me the most. There came a point where the questions I was hoping to address went beyond the confines of my position. I ultimately chose to pursue graduate school because I knew that the extensive hands-on training and intellectual investment would provide me the tools needed to seek the answers to my own questions. I hope to pursue a career in biodefense research, focusing on vaccine development and antiviral treatments against emerging pathogens.

Taylor Uccello: I decided to attend graduate school because of my experience working in an immunology lab during my undergraduate studies. It was during this time that I realized how much I enjoy bench work and designing experiments. Once I finish my PhD work, I plan to continue to pursue a career in tumor immunology, with a strong focus on mentoring students.

Mary C. Moran:  I decided to attend graduate school because I really enjoyed the research experiences that I had as an undergraduate and wanted to continue conducting research, learning new skills, and collaborating with other scientists. In addition to the Immunology PhD program, I am also enrolled in the MPH program. By pursing both of these degrees I will leave the University of Rochester with comprehensive training in bench-top and clinical research methods of infectious disease and an understanding of the epidemiology and public health policy that is required to address these diseases.

Research Spotlight

Taylor Uccello presents research at the International Conference on Immunotherapy Radiotherapy Combinations 5th Annual Meeting

Taylor Uccello in front of her posterTaylor Uccello recently traveled to Paris, France for the International Conference on Immunotherapy Radiotherapy Combinations 5th Annual Meeting (September 14th – 17th).  Taylor presented a poster titled, “The Irradiation Effect on the Neuronal- Immune Axis in Rectal Cancer”. Taylor’s work explores how radiation therapy unintentionally influences the sympathetic nervous system. Adrenergic nerves have been shown to be highly immunosuppressive and hinder the anti-tumor immune response. Her research has determined that radiation therapy, alongside its many anti-tumor and immunostimulatory effects, induces neurogenesis and subsequent norepinephrine secretion.  Taylor hypothesizes that this neuronal axis may contribute to the immunosuppressive arm of radiation therapy, and that if the neuronal signaling could be reversed, the efficacy of radiation therapy could be enhanced.

Great work, Taylor!

Taylor Uccello is awarded at the GWIS "Mentoring-Up New Year's Resolution Challenge"

Outlining and achieving goals is reliant on surrounding yourself with excellent mentors. The "Mentoring -Up New Year's Resolution Challenge" ​was sponsored by GWIS that asked students to set 3 personal and professional goals for the semester.​ Taylor partook in the challenge and wrote a report on her goals, how she would achieve them, and what mentors would help her along the way. 

"My three professional goals were to improve my writing for my manuscript by attending the UR writing retreats, take ownership in developing my career goals by using the Individual Development Plan (IDP) tool, and expanding my scientific network, which was altered slightly by the pandemic, so I joined the cancer biology leadership group to set myself up to meet new people in the future..."

Taylor was 1 of 4 students selected to present at the GWIS meeting on May 20th, 2021 and she was awarded $1500 that could be used on an technology related items for her research.

Congratulations, Taylor!

Thesis Defense-Andrea Amitrano, PhD Candidate in Pathology

Andrea Amitrano is a PhD candidate in pathology in the PhD program in Pathology-Cell Biology of Disease at URMC. She is mentored by Dr. Minsoo Kim in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology. Now in the fifth year of her PhD program, Andrea will be defending her thesis titled, Optical Control of CD8+ T cell Metabolism and Effector Functions this year. Andrea’s thesis committee members are: Andrew Wojtovich, Paige Lawrence, and Yi-Fen Lee and her chair, Patrick Murphy. Andrea is also completing revisions on a first author paper.

Great work, Andrea!

SARS-COV-2 Research Published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases

Chantelle White is a second year PhD student in immunology in the Immunology, Microbiology, and Virology PhD program. Her advisor is Dr. Andrea Sant in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology.  Since the emergence of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, Chantelle has been focusing on the functional potential of circulating seasonal Human Coronavirus (sHCoV) - reactive CD4 T cells and she is author on a paper published on the subject this year titled, Circulating CD4+ T cells Elicited by Endemic Coronaviruses Display Vast Disparities in Abundance and Functional Potential Linked to Antigen Specificity and Age. Studies from her lab show that individuals unexposed to SARS-COV-2 have pre-existing, circulating sHCoV-specific CD4+ T cells that are cross-reactive with the SARS-COV-2 spike, nucleocapsid, and membrane/envelope proteins. Together, these studies provide an intriguing first look at the sHCoV-reactive CD4 T cell repertoire that a given healthy adult may possess before and ultimately carry into their fight against SARS-CoV2 infection. Additional studies will be required to further characterize how previous exposures to endemic sHCoVs shape the memory CD4 T cell repertoire and how the presence of these cross-reactive CD4 T cells may contribute to SARS-COV-2 disease outcomes. Chantelle will be expanding on these studies in her future dissertation research.

Amazing work, Chantelle! Take a look at the SARS-COV-2 paper published by the Sant lab!

Cassandra Houser Selected as Student Representative for SOT

Photo of Cassandra HouserCassandra Houser, a fourth year immunology student in Dr. Paige Lawrence’s laboratory, was recently selected as the Graduate Student Representative for the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology (SOT). This position entails working with the Immunotoxicology Specially Section (ITSS) Executive Committee to organize ITSS alumni and networking events at annual SOT meetings. Cassandra will also be in charge of organizing and putting together the ITSS newsletter each quarter. In addition, Cassandra was also selected to give a poster presentation on her work studying the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) in T follicular helper cells at the SOT annual meeting at the end of this month.

Congratulations Cassandra!

Tumor Metabolism and the Microenvironment Keystone Conference

Photo of Andrea Amitrano in front of poster at conferenceT32 Trainee Andrea Amitrano was selected to give a presentation at this year’s Tumor Metabolism and the Microenvironment Keystone conference held virtually from January 25-28, 2021. Her presentation is titled “Regulation of CD8+ T cell Metabolism and Migration with Optogenetics”.

A summary of her presentation is as follows. “While cancer immunotherapy is effective against hematologic malignancies, it is ineffective against solid tumors due in part to significant metabolic challenges present in the tumor microenvironment (TME), where infiltrated CD8+ T cells face fierce competition with cancer cells for limited nutrients. The strong metabolic suppression in the TME often leads to impaired T cell recruitment to the tumor site and hypo-responsive effector functions via T cell exhaustion. Growing evidence suggests that mitochondria play a key role in CD8+ T cell activation, effector functions, and persistence in tumors. We found that the mitochondrial membrane potential is closely correlated with Granzyme B and IFN-y production. Additionally, activated CD8+ T cells migrating on ICAM-1 and CXCL12 coated wells consumed significantly more oxygen than stationary CD8+ T cells and inhibition of mitochondrial respiration decreases the velocity of CD8+ T cell migration, indicating the importance of mitochondrial metabolism in CD8+ T cell migration. Remote optical stimulation of CD8+ T cells that express our newly developed “OptoMito-On” successfully enhanced mitochondrial ATP production and improved overall CD8+ T cell migration, as well as effector functions. Our study provides new insight into the impact of the mitochondrial membrane potential on CD8+ T cell effector functions and demonstrates the development of a novel optogenetic technique to remotely control T cell metabolism and effector functions at the target tumor site with outstanding specificity and temporospatial resolution.”

Congratulations, Andrea!

Microbiology and Immunology Peer Mentor Award

Photo of Taylor Uccello with awardT32 Appointee and 4th year graduate student, Taylor Uccello, was this year’s recipient of the Microbiology and Immunology Peer Mentor Award. This departmental award was established in 2015 and is awarded annually to a student nominated by their peers. Taylor works in Dr. Scott Gerber’s lab and has been a mentor to both visiting international students and undergraduates for the past 3 years. During this time Taylor has shown that she has a strong passion for teaching and mentoring, assisting students with developing their own projects and learning the lab techniques necessary to acquire a good foundation in research in immunology and cancer. Taylor also assists beyond the work in lab to assist students in applications for further education; two of the students that she has recently mentored have gone on to postgraduate education and medical school in their home countries. A huge portion of Taylor’s graduate school experience and interest in scientific research, she reports, can be attributed to having phenomenal mentors and learning the value and importance in mentoring others.

Research Published in Nature Immunology

Research Images from Dr. Kim's published paper

Figure 3a – Neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages interactions in HKx31 influenza infected trachea of live mice on various days post infection.

Research Assistant Professor Dr. Kihong Lim from Dr. Minsoo Kim’s laboratory recently published an article in Nature Immunology titled, “In situ neutrophil efferocytosis shapes T cell immunity to influenza infection”. T32 appointee Andrea Amitrano and IMV graduate Dr. Alissa Trzeciak were contributing authors on this September 2020 publication. The paper explored neutrophil motility and interactions with resident phagocytes in vivo using impressive intravital multiphoton microscopy on influenza infected mouse airways. The authors determined that during the resolution phase, apoptotic neutrophils promote monocyte differentiation through epidermal growth factor secretion. Monocyte differentiation subsequently results in the emergence of a pool of tissue resident antigen presenting cells characteristic of CD103+ Dendritic cells (DCs).  These neutrophil experienced, differentiating inflammatory monocytes (DCs) were shown to form stable immunological synapses with CD8+ T cells in the mouse trachea for prolonged periods of time in an MHC class I dependent manner. This suggests that neutrophil experienced inflammatory monocytes are performing an important APC function to activate anti-viral T cells and promote potent effector functions. Please take a look at the exciting results from their paper

Microsphere Delivery of Immunotherapy Agents to TumorsPhoto of histology from Booyeon Han research

Booyeon Han (Linehan and Gerber Labs) publishes her work on the delivery of microsphere-encapsulated immunomodulatory agents to the tumor microenvironment.  Using a model of  pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, Booyeon found that within hours of intratumoral delivery, microspheres containing IL-12 were found in the tumor, lymphatics, and draining lymph node. The drainage of IL-12 microspheres from the tumor to the lymph node boosted Th1 cells and induced an antitumor cytokine profile that was essential for treatment efficacy.  This efficacy was abrogated with draining lymph node ablation as noted by continued tumor growth and decreased survival.  These studies demonstrate the potential for microsphere delivery of factors that locally modulate both tumor and lymph node microenvironments to enhance antitumor activity.

URMC Research Awards

Maureen Banach: Melville A. Hare Award for excellence in Research​
Maxime Jean: Melville A. Hare Award for excellence in Research​
Zanah Francis: Melville A. Hare Award for excellence in Teaching
Janelle Veazey: Outstanding Student Mentor Award

Poster Awards

Best Department Seminar - 2019

Jonathan Pinney - 3rd year

Science Policy Memo Writing Contest (3 prizes all to IMV students) – 2019
Immunology T32 Highlights - Memo Writing Award Winners

  • Janelle Veazey
  • Nicholas Battaglia

Recent Student Papers:

  • Alissa Trzeciak 
    Title: Long-Term Microgliosis Driven by Acute Systemic Inflammation
    Authors: Trzeciak, A, Yelena, VL, Kim, TH, Kim, MR, Mai, N, Marc, WH and Kim, M
    Journal: Journal of Immunology
    Links: Cover Images, Top Reads
  • Daphne Pariser
    Title: The Little Platelet That Could: PF4’s Regulation of Immune Responses.
    Authors: Pariser, DN, Hilt, ZT, Bennett, JA, Morrell, CN
    Journal: ASHI Quarterly
  • Jonathan Pinney
    Journal: Journal of Cell Science paper
    *Waiting on response about paper acceptance


Daphne Pariser

  • Vascular Discovery: From Genes to Medicine Travel Award for Young Investigators, Council of Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 2019
  • National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health F31, NIH, 2019-2021, 1F31HL147458-01

Janelle Veazey

National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health F31, NIH, 2018-2020, 1F31HL140795

Briaunna Minor

National Institutes of Health F31CA254132, “Double Duty: Elucidating the Effects of Estrogen on Tumor Cells and their Microenvironment in Lymphangioleiomyomatosis”
Project Summary: Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a destructive cystic lung disease caused by TSC2-null, estrogen-sensitive, metastatic tumors, has a notable female sexual dimorphism and limited therapeutic options. Succinctly, the project is designed to delineate the mechanisms of estrogen actions in a murine model for Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) tumor growth, focusing on direct estrogen stimulation of TSC2-null LAM cells as well as estrogen involvement in the actions of granulocytic cells that infiltrate and promote LAM tumors.

Travel to Conferences

  • Abstracts by Nick Battaglia, Cassandra Houser, and Janelle Veazey were selected for short talks at the 2019 Upstate New York Immunology Conference.
    • A little about the conference by Janelle Veazey: “The Upstate Immunology conference is one of my favorites. It's a great chance to have lunch/dinner with the invited speakers including the keynotes! This year they also ran a mock study section, which was helpful to see what parts of your grant reviewers look at and discuss as well as better understand how [grant] scoring works.”