Driven To Teach: BRI reseearchers from Lab to Lecture Hall

Did you know that BRI researchers aren’t just researchers? They’re teachers, too. In fact, 12 BRI researchers serve on the University of Washington (UW) faculty, two of which also teach at the Chiba University School of Medicine in Japan.

Being on a university faculty lets researchers lead courses, deliver lectures and serve on academic committees. BRI researchers embrace this because it means a chance to influence upSteve Ziegler, PhD, leads BRI’s immunology research program, affiliate professor at UW Department of Immunology and a visiting professor at Chiba University.-and-coming scientists and build a larger professional network.

“Faculty appointments are a great opportunity to help the next generation, and to collaborate with researchers who have different specialties and perspectives,” says Steve Ziegler, PhD, who leads BRI’s immunology research program and directs the institute’s academic affairs. Dr. Ziegler is also an affiliate professor in the UW Department of Immunology and a visiting professor at Chiba University.

Shaping Careers

At the UW, six BRI investigators hold appointments in the Department of Immunology. Six others hold individual appointments in the department of medicine, pathology, biology and pharmacy.

BRI researchers take these positions in part because they want to teach. Investigators, like Estelle Bettelli, PhD,BRI Investigator Estelle Bettelli, PhD have developed courses from the ground up. And researchers like Jessica Hamerman, PhD, shape existing courses.

Jessica Hamerman, PhD, BRI Principle Investigator and UW facultyDr. Hamerman, an affiliate associate professor in the Department of Immunology, spent four years leading Immunology 532, a graduate-level class that introduces a range of topics. Dr. Hamerman decided which topics to cover each year and still delivers many of the course’s lectures. Her favorite part is helping students from different departments discuss scientific issues from multiple angles.

“It’s really rewarding to watch their thinking develop,” Dr. Hamerman says.

The students aren’t the only ones who learn – teaching helps Dr. Hamerman and her colleagues keep up with topics that fall outside their day-to-day research. Last year, for example, Dr. Hamerman created a lecture on dendritic cells.

“I had to read really deeply,” she says. “It was a great experience because it helped me learn how different types of dendritic cells shape different immune responses.”

Energy Infusion

UW Department of Immunology Graduate StudentsThe UW Department of Immunology requires graduate students to do rotations in three labs. Being on the UW faculty enables BRI researchers to host these rotations. Dr. Ziegler, for instance, has two students working in his lab this quarter. One student, Joanna Maltbaek, is studying a transplant model of melanoma. The other student, Jack McGinty, is studying the role of epithelial cytokines in allergic responses in airways.

“I love having grad students – they’re eager to learn, they have tons of energy and they’re willing to try any experiment, no matter how crazy it sounds,” Dr. Ziegler says.

All BRI researchers on the UW faculty participate in its mentoring program. “It’s gratifying to figure out what each student needs and then tailor mentoring to them,” Dr. Hamerman says, “and it makes me even more grateful for the mentors that helped me.”

Sparking Collaborations

Being on the UW faculty includes administrative commitments – like going to faculty meetings and serving on committees – that make it easy for BRI researchers to collaborate with other researchers.

A few years ago, Dr. Ziegler started tossing around research ideas before and after faculty meetings. He and his colleagues wanted to study airway epithelial cells in people with allergic asthma, to see how these cells affect the immune system. Gradually, a team came together that included nine investigators: five from BRI, three from UW and one from Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

In 2015, the group received a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant  to pursue their project. “That project probably never would have happened if we hadn’t gotten to know each other through the UW faculty obligations,” Dr. Ziegler says.


News & Views

September 21, 2017

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