Personal profile

Biography

I obtained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany followed by an MSc by Research also in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. After a temporary R&D position at Novartis, Switzerland, I completed my PhD in 2016 at the University of Edinburgh with Steve Anderton, investigating regulatory T cell function in inflammatory disease using laboratory mouse models. In my first postdoctoral position in Richard Mellanby’s lab, also at the University of Edinburgh, I investigated tolerance mechanisms through which dendritic cells modulate potentially autopathogenic T cells.
In order to gain a more holistic understanding of the factors shaping the immune system, I took up my second postdoctoral position at the University of Manchester with Kathryn Else, to study the drivers of immune variation in a wild, free-living house mouse population. Through this post and a NERC Discipline Hopping Award in 2022 with geographer Angela Harris and ecologist Susanne Shultz, I have been able to establish myself in the interdisciplinary research area of ecoimmunology, which complements traditional laboratory research, veterinary and human studies, as well as conservation research. I have recently been awarded a Wellcome and University of Manchester EDI Perera Fellowship.

Research interests

The majority of immunological knowledge we have today has been gained from laboratory studies, primarily using inbred mouse strains as model organisms held under defined conditions. This approach is instrumental in gaining precise mechanistic insight into how the immune system functions. Yet, animals, including humans, live in an uncontrolled environment and contend with a multitude of environmental changes and challenges at once, and across their lifetime. With a strong background in mechanistic immunology, I have turned towards the discipline of Ecoimmunology, an upcoming interdisciplinary research area which aims to understand the causes and consequences of immune variation by studying wild or semi-wild animals. The incorporation of naturally-occurring environmental and host-intrinsic variables more closely represents how an animal’s immune system is shaped throughout a lifetime. This is achieved by combining the seemingly opposing strengths of ecology (uncovering broad patterns within a naturally diverse study population) and immunology (mechanistic insight into immune functions by minimising variation in a controlled model system). Within the framework of the One Health approach, building bridges across these two disciplines and insights from this work will have implications for both public health and livestock/wild animal health and thereby conservation efforts.

I have a long-standing interest in immune tolerance, immune regulation and regeneration and how these are shaped by environmental factors. Especially at barrier sites such as the gut, which are constantly exposed to external stimuli, the immune system has the challenging role of striking the balance between controlling infections, promoting immunological tolerance against innocuous or commensal antigens, and limiting immunopathology. By combining mechanistic immunology with field-based ecological study design, I aim to investigate how immune regulation is achieved and maintained under diverse pressures in animals in their natural habitat. In future, I aim to build on these insights through comparative studies across species and habitats, as well as through field-to-lab and lab-to-field experimental designs, to enable a holistic understanding of the factors supporting immune tolerance, regulation and regeneration and thereby health.

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • SBS Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee
  • British Society for Immunology
  • British Ecological Society
  • British Society for Parasitology

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Lydia Becker Institute

Keywords

  • Ecoimmunology
  • Immune variation
  • Immune regulation
  • Immune tolerance
  • Tissue regeneration
  • Parasites
  • One Health

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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