David Escobar, Mentor: Cara Gottardi, PhD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. David was admitted to the MSTP program at Northwestern in 2008 and joined the laboratory of Dr. Cara Gottardi in 2010. Dr. Gottardi’s laboratory has discovered novel phosphorylation sites in alpha-catenin, a major component of the cadherin-catenin complex and the epithelial adherens junction. David’s project seeks to demonstrate the role of alpha-catenin phosphorylation in regulating dynamic epithelial cell adhesion. He has worked to demonstrate that distinct biochemical states may regulate alpha-catenin function at the molecular level, thus affecting the adhesive state in cells. Understanding the regulation of the cadherin-catenin complex is important for understanding epithelial homeostasis and response to injury.
Carrie Lee, Mentor: Jing Liu, PhD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Carrie is a predoctoral candidate in the Driskill Graduate Program and is now conducting her research with Dr. Jing Liu in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division. One of the main interests in the Liu lab is the molecular mechanisms that govern interacellular signaling network during physiological and pathological events. Being a key mediator of inflammation, TNF is involved in many pulmonary diseases, including asthma, COPD, ALI, and ARDS. Carrie’s project focuses on signaling events that can lead to TNF-induced JNK activation, a MAPK pathway that most notably leads to apoptosis and inflammation. Her work has shown that the tumor suppressor ARF and the E3 ubiquitin ligase Mule are regulated in response to TNF and suggests that this modulation is important for JNK activation functions, such as cell death and inflammation.
Michael Schieber, Mentor: Navdeep Chandel, PhD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Michael joined the Driskill Graduate Program at Northwestern University after receiving his B.A. degree in Biology and Chemistry from Northwestern. Michael is addressing the question of why the maximal oxidative capacity of the mitochondria in cells is 10 fold higher than the highest level of ATP consumption. It is known that with aging, this oxidative capacity falls dramatically but still is more than adequate to meet metabolic demands, even under stress conditions. Michael’s early work suggests that the loss of mitochondrial signaling with aging might play a role in the development of some aging phenotypes.
Sam Weinberg, Mentor: Navdeep Chandel, PhD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Sam joined the Northwestern Medical Scientist Training Program in 2010 and soon after joined the lab of Dr. Naveep Chandel. Dr. Chandel’s laboratory studies the role of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) and metabolite production in numerous biological processes. Previous work by the lab has demonstrated that clonal selection and activation by T cells requires ROS mediated production of IL-2. Sam is continuing this work by investigating if ROS signaling is also necessary for differentiation of specific helper T cell effector lineages, specifically regulatory T cells and Th17 lineage cells. This work will provide novel insight into the role of mitochondria in regulation of the immune response. Furthermore, it may allow for identification of novel therapeutic targets which could be used to treat fibrosis and acute lung injury. In addition to this project, Sam is also working with other laboratories in the department to identify unique metabolic pathways that are activated by the influenza virus in primary alveolar tissues. The goal of this work is to identify host pathways that affect influenza viral replication that may serve as potential targets of therapy.
Micah Rogel, PhD Mentor: GR Scott Budinger, PhD Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Micah Rogel, PhD. Mentor: Scott Budinger, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Micah received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University and began post-doctoral work in Pulmonary Medicine in 2013. She is interested in lung stem cells and their role in lung regeneration. Previous reports have suggested that a putative lung stem cell population expresses, among other markers, CD104 (also known as integrin β4). Her goal is to isolate and characterize the putative stem cells based on expression of CD104 and other epithelial and stem cell surface markers, as well as to determine the role of CD104 in repopulating lungs following influenza infection. Concurrently, she is exploring whether these cells are sufficient to repopulate a decelluarized lung scaffold.
Ariel Jaitovich, MD Mentor: Jacob Sznajder, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Jaitovich is in his third year of fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He is an underrepresented minority who received his MD from the Universidad de Buenos Aires after which he performed research at the Laboratory of Oxygen Metabolism in Argentina. He published several papers based on his research work in excellent journals including Hepatology and FASEB Journal. Interested in a career in research based academic medicine, he completed an internal medicine residency at the John Stroger Cook County Hospital before joining our fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Jaitovich has been working on an exciting project with Dr. Sznajder. Recognizing that much of the morbidity associated with acute lung injury is related to neuromuscular dysfunction, Dr. Jaitovich is seeking to understand the molecular mechanisms by which sepsis and acute lung injury induce the ubiquitin mediated degradatation of key skeletal muscle myocytes. The results of this project will be presented at the American Thoracic Society Meeting
Michael Keller, MD Mentor: Jacob Sznajder, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Keller is a third year fellow in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He obtained his MD from the University of Iowa and went on to become one of the top residents in the Northwestern Program. During his residency, Mike works in the laboratory of Dr. Sznajder examining the regulation of the Na, K-ATPase during hypercapnia. Working with Dr. Murali Prakriya, who discovered the molecular basis for CRAC channels, he found high levels of expression of CRAC channels in alveolar epithelial cells. Dr. Keller is now completing a project examining the role played by CRAC channels in the regulation of plasma abundance and activity of the Na, K-ATPase in alveolar epithelial cells.Dr. Keller has submitted an application for an Individual NRSA to support a fourth year of training and he continues his research work in Dr. Sznajder’s laboratory.
Sean Smith, MD Mentor: Richard Wunderink, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Sean received his MD and completed his residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He is now a second year fellow in our Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellowship where his research project is off to a strong start. With Dr. Wunderink, Dr. Smith aims to improve the classification of patients with ARDS. He has established a protocol to obtain aliquots of non-bronchoscopic BAL fluid specimens from all patients in the intensive care unit on which they are clinically indicated. Based on algorithms developed as part of Dr. Wunderinks recently completed study of community acquired pneumonia with investigators at the Centers for Disease Control, he will performed microbiologic analysis to find evidence for viral or bacterial pathogens. The goal of this project is to link these analyses with clinical decisions with respect to antibiotic and other adjunctive therapies for patients with lung injury. He is also partnering with other investigators in the Division to provide aliquots of these specimens to investigators of the Program Project Award.