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Northwestern University Allergy and Immunology Research Program

Our Mission

The overall aim of the Northwestern University Allergy and Immunology Research (NUAIR) Program is to train MD and PhD postdoctoral scientists in translational research, here defined as research of disease mechanisms that includes investigations in human subjects, human samples or pre-clinical models. The NUAIR program builds on our Allergy and Immunology Fellowship, which has a long history of excellence in clinical and academic training. Unified efforts of established investigators in our division with those from other divisions and departments have created a rich environment for translational research in the NUAIR program in which clinical and basic researchers, both faculty and trainees, collaborate and interact in weekly research and didactic activities. These collaborations have led to multidisciplinary translational research programs in several allergic and inflammatory diseases supported by well-equipped laboratories and a large number of research cores and facilities.

Under the NUAIR program, four MD and/or PhD postgraduate trainees per year will receive two years of research training. Each will work together with a clinical research mentor and a basic research mentor to study mechanisms of immunological diseases. In addition to well- structured research training and didactic activities, strong mentoring and close monitoring of trainees’ performances based on milestones will ensure proper progress during training. Our retention plan includes support for trainees who remain in the Division of Allergy and Immunology as junior faculty members after T32-supported training, while they seek external funding support. Senior faculty members in the Division of Allergy and Immunology have a strong record of mentoring trainees toward obtaining K awards and new R01 grants. We also offer programs to inspire medical students and residents to pursue careers in Allergy and Immunology. Finally, trainees will become part of the research community supported by the new Center for Human Immunobiology at Northwestern, which will include a distinguished lectureship series across a wide range of topics in immunology, journal clubs and research in progress seminars. Taken together, our rapidly expanding and comprehensive Allergy and Immunology research environment provides state-of-the-art training to highly qualified MD, MD/PhD and PhD postdoctoral trainees. These trainees will conduct collaborative translational research in Allergy and Immunology, initiating research careers that will help solve a severe national need for academic leaders in this field.


Stephanie Eisenbarth, MD, PhD
Co-Program Director 

Sergejs Berdnikovs, PhD
Co-Program Director

Thongsy Singvongsa
Division Administrator

Allison Cholewa
Research Administrator

 Program Eligibility and Application Process

Applications from postdoctoral fellows and clinical fellows are being accepted via our online application portal.

The NUAIR T32 Fellowship program is designed for MD and/or PhD trainees with an interest in advanced training in translational research in the field of Allergy and Immunology. Projects of trainees are those that have both clinical and laboratory components, and trainees have access to renowned mentors in both clinical and basic departments in order to develop a mentoring team with expertise in both realms to successfully complete projects and training. NUAIR is highly compliant with scientific, programmatic, and social initiatives of the NIAID and the NIH.

Program Eligibility

This program recruits post-graduate trainees with MD and/or PhD background who will propose research in allergy, asthma or immunology that includes investigation in human subjects or samples. Bench/animal-oriented research proposals should have a translational component, utilizing human subjects or human samples.

The NUAIR Program builds on the Allergy-Immunology Fellowship, which has a long history of excellence in clinical and academic training. Together with established investigators from other Divisions and Departments, we have a rich environment for translational research in the NUAIR program in which clinical and basic researchers, both faculty and trainees, collaborate and interact in weekly research and didactic activities. These collaborations have led to multidisciplinary translational research programs in several allergic diseases supported by well-equipped laboratories and a large number of research cores and facilities.  These trainees conduct collaborative translational research in Allergy-Immunology, initiating research careers that will help attenuate a severe national need for academic leaders in this field.

Important criteria for applicants:

  • Applicants should have a research project with a translational component and a primary mentor.  The projects usually involve a bench research mentor and a clinical research mentor though other arrangements are possible. The main mentor, who will work most closely with the applicant, must be a NUAIR T32 preceptor.  If a potential candidate has identified a mentor that qualifies to serve on NUAIR based on their NIH funding, mentoring success, and relevance to the Allergy-Immunology goals of NUAIR, we are happy to consider adding the mentor/applicant pair to the NUAIR team.
  • NIH T32 requires that the individual to be trained must be a citizen or a noncitizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence by training appointment date.
  • NRSA Support: No individual trainee may receive more than 5 years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the predoctoral level and 3 years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the postdoctoral level, including any combination of support from Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants and individual fellowships.

For more information on NRSA eligibility requirements, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement on Kirschstein NRSAs.

Postdoctoral Appointments

The program appoints two trainees during the grant year for a two-year period.

Application Process and Deadlines

  • A two-year commitment is required, or an earlier departure will incur NIH-payback of the first year of support. 
  • Candidate must dedicate at least 75% of effort to research during T32 support.
  • Candidate must have a strong commitment to a research career.
  • Appointment is renewed yearly, and depending on adequate performance. 
  • In the initial phase of application, the candidate must submit a resume, an abstract of the research proposal, and must indicate the mentors and who will be the main T32 mentor/preceptor in our online portal.  Contact Allison Cholewa, Research Administrator, with any questions regarding this process.

 Participating Mentors

Primary Mentors

Secondary Mentors


Eisenbarth, Stephanie, MD, PhD - PD/PI and Director

Berdnikovs, Sergejs, PhD – PD/PI and Assoc. Director

Saltoun, Carol, MD – Assoc. Director, Clinical Research

Berin, Cecilia, PhD - Assoc. Director, Basic Science

Backman, Vadim, PhD

Bharat, Ankit, MD 

Brown, Melissa, PhD

Budinger, G. R. Scott, MD 

Chandel, Navdeep, PhD 

Choi, Jae, MD, PhD 

Fang, Deyu, PhD 

Gottardi, Cara, PhD

Kalhan, Ravi, MD 

Kato, Atsushi, PhD 

Kumar, Raj, MD 

Miller, Stephen, PhD 

Min, Booki, PhD

Muller, William, MD, PhD 

Paller, Amy, MD 

Peters, Anju, MD

Penaloza-MacMaster, Pablo, PhD 

Perlman, Harris, PhD 

Ridge, Karen, PhD 

Shukla, Vipul, PhD

Singer, Benjamin, MD

Tan, Bruce, MD 

Tetreault, Marie-Pier, PhD 

Thorp, Edward, PhD 

Wang, Chyung-Ru, PhD 

Ahmed, Aisha, MD

Gonsalves, Nirmala, MD

Fishbein, Anna, MD 

McNeil, Ben, PhD 

Stevens, Whitney, MD, PhD

Wechsler, Josh, MD 

Winter, Deb, PhD 


 T32 Executive Committee

 Current Trainees

Allergy T32 Trainee Summaries:


Luay Almassalha, MD, PhD

Mentor: Vadim Backman, PhD

Project Title: Investigating the role of mechanically-sensitive chromatin remodeling enzymes in esophageal epithelial response to Type-2 inflammatory signaling in Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Research Description: Eosinophilic esophagitis is a food-allergen mediated esophageal disorder that results in significant morbidity due to fibrostenosis (narrowing) in response to inflammation. Although global alterations in the transcriptome are observed in EoE, very little is known about the role of chromatin remodeling in disease progression. Multiple chromatin regulators are differentially expressed in EoE, including mechanically responsive enzymes but their role in the development of inflammatory-mediated fibrostenosis is not understood. The goal of this project is to understand the role of mechanically-responsive chromatin remodeling enzymes in fibrotic progression in EoE with the goal of developing therapeutic targets to inhibit this process.


Emily Flowers, PhD

Mentor: Stephanie Eisenbarth, MD

Project Title: Mechanisms of alloantibody generation in response to red blood cell transfusion

Research Description: Blood transfusion is required for people with blood loss due to injury or surgery, transfusion-dependent thalassemia, sickle cell disease, and bone marrow ablation and transplant. A major complication of transfusion is the development of non-ABO alloantibodies against donor red blood cells (RBCs), however alloantibodies are only generated in response to stored blood. My research works to define the innate immune stimuli on stored RBCs, and cellular interactions in a recipient, that determine whether a patient's adaptive immune cells remain ignorant of allogeneic RBCs or become activated and generate alloantibodies.


RoxRoy Morgan, PhD

Mentor: Vipul Shukla, PhD

Title: Defining a metabolic path for B cell memory

Research Description: Immunological memory, the process by which B and T cells of the adaptive immune system rapidly recognize and eliminate previously encountered pathogens, represents a hallmark of high-fidelity immune responses. However, the mechanisms underlying formation of memory B cells are not fully understood. Recent studies have shown the emergence of distinct metabolic states as B cell undergo differentiation, with memory B cells upregulating genes associated with oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). The goal of this project is to determine whether OXPHOS and increased mitochondrial activity is required for the function of memory B cells and their commitment to a memory fate.


Eli Olson, PhD

Mentor: Stephanie Eisenbarth, MD

Project Title: Mechanistic investigation of dendritic cell biology and antigen presentation during allergic responses

Research Description: During the initiation of immune responses against foreign antigens, antigen presenting cells such as dendritic cells (DCs) integrate a variety of environmental signals to generate either inflammatory or tolerizing adaptive responses. While humans are generally tolerant to antigens present in food, individuals may develop allergic immune responses against specific antigens such as peanut, milk protein, and egg among others. The breakdowns in DC-mediated tolerance for these reactions are incompletely understood. The aim of my project will be to explore mechanisms by which dendritic cells in the gut acquire and present food antigens, as well as key cellular processes like migration with antigen to secondary lymphoid sites.


Madeline Schutt, MD

Mentor: Whitney Stevens, MD, PhD

Project Title: Characterization of hypersensitivity reactions in patients receiving platinum-based chemotherapy at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Research Description: Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women and is responsible for more deaths than any other gynecological cancer. First-line medical treatment for ovarian cancer includes the use of platin-based chemotherapy agents, specifically carboplatin. Unfortunately, patients can develop reactions acutely during their carboplatin infusions. The focus of my project is to more extensively characterize the clinical reactions that occur immediately during infusions of carboplatin to better define the true prevalence of carboplatin-induced anaphylaxis within our institution, to identify unique clusters of patients who share similar reaction patterns and provide the groundwork for future studies exploring the mechanisms by which carboplatin-induced anaphylaxis may occur.

 Program Expectations and FAQ

Program Expecatations

The following are expected of all trainees accepted into the NUAIR program:

  • Dedicate to research >75% effort, or > 30 hours per week. Mentors and trainee will monitor trainee’s effort load so that they spend > 30 hours per week in hands-on research, working in the bench or clinical lab.
  • Meet the following milestones:
    • Submit an abstract to a national meeting yearly.
    • Submit an application for a K award (internal K, K08, K23, or K99/R00) and a non-NIH application (e.g. Medical Society, Foundation) in the second year.
    • Submit at least one manuscript as first author based on her/his own research project.
    • Submit at least another manuscript during the two years of research training (co-author in another collaborative work, in a review, in a chapter, etc).
    • For MD trainees: maintain clinical skills and pass the American Board of Allergy and Immunology certifying examination.
    • Apply for an academic position in the second year of training.
    • Actively participate in teaching in the division lectures, didactic activities, and immunology annual retreat.
  • Lectures, course work, clinical work, and all other activities must not prevent the trainee from dedicating > 30 hours per week to hands-on research.
  • Trainees attend the following divisional lectures on a weekly basis: Allergy and Immunology Laboratory Meeting (Monday 12-1PM), Allergy and Immunology journal club (Tuesdays 1:30 – 2:30PM), and Allergy and Immunology research conference (Fridays 12-1PM).
  • Trainees attend and present at these annual meetings: Northwestern Immunology Retreat, Autumn Immunology Conference, and a national meeting, preferably that of the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology.
  • Trainees must participate in the educational and self-improvement (evaluations, committees, etc.) activities of the NUAIR program.
  • Trainees must be collegial and promote collaborative research among peers. In addition, they must conduct themselves with the highest degree of integrity, professionalism, and respect for all members of the workplace.


What is a Payback Obligation?  How do I know if I incur one?
Any NRSA postdoctoral trainees or fellow incurs a payback obligation during their first year of support.  Pre-doctoral NRSA trainees do not incur a payback obligation.  Payback means that you will perform qualified research or teaching activities for a length of time equal to the period of NRSA support you received.  Receiving 12 months of postdoctoral training support obligates you to perform 12 months of qualified research or teaching activities as payback.  Only the first year of training incurs a payback obligation; the second year of training pays back the first year, with each month of qualifying payback activity paying back one month of NRSA support.  If you receive two full years of NRSA training, you will have completed your payback obligation.  In general, payback activity must involve at least 20 hours per week and be conducted over 12 consecutive months. Special exceptions to these requirements may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additional resources on Payback Obligations can be found on the NIH website, along with a separate payback FAQ.

 Trainee Resources

All trainees are encouranged to join the Department of Medicine New Investigator Career Enhancement (NICE) group and vist the NIK T32 Kiosk.

Laboratory:  Each preceptor has her/his own laboratory. Desk space and a personal computer will be available for each trainee. The laboratory of the adult division of Allergy and Immunology has 5,675 sq. ft. of space. The common area has two large cold rooms, autoclave room and a central dishwashing facility.

Clinical:  Northwestern has four hospitals in close proximity:  The Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH), Prentice Women’s Hospital (PWH), Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly RIC - ranked #1 nationally), and the Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (LCH).  The Division of Allergy and Immunology has its own clinical research area located in our patient clinic in the Galter Pavilion.

Animal: All animal work is performed in the Northwestern University Animal Resources Facility under the direction of the Northwestern University Center for Comparative Medicine (CCM). The CCM is an AAALAC accredited facility and a member of AALAS.

Office:  Each faculty and each trainee has his or her own desk and computer connected to the intranet and internet, and the system is managed by a responsive and capable medical school wide IT department.

Additional bench lab equipment includes: a FPLC system and a HPLC system with electrochemical detector, cell harvester, gamma counters, scintillation counter, a speed vac concentrator, Precision shaking bath, Sonic dismembrator, hybridizaton ovens, 48 well Nitrogen evaporator, and Shandon Cytocentrifuge.

PCR equipment: Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer, NanoDrop, MJ Research DYAD Peltier Thermal Cycler with DNA engine for high-throughput, Taqman Real-time PCR ABI prism 7500 sequence detection system (PE Applied Biosystems).

Protein/Proteomics equipment: An ImmunoCAP automated ELISA, and a molecular designs SpectrMax excitation/emission plate reader. Western blot and Southern blot apparatus; BioRad Spectrophotometer SmartSpec Plus (UV, visual, kinetic programs, etc.), a BioRad Chemidoc XRS gel imager, a Li-Cor Odyssey infrared imager, Invitrogen Zoom Dual Power source and setup for 2D gel Western Blot/Proteomics.

Flow cytometry: BD FACS cytometric array, BD Biosciences LSR II Flow Cytometer (3 lasers, 6 colors), Auto-MACS cell separator.

Microscopy & Histology: Leica Microtomes and embedding/tissue processing center. An Olympus DSU (Disk Scanning Unit for live cell imaging) fluorescent confocal microscope with software for 3D images (Z-stacks) and performing computer-assisted stereology (Xenon lamp, 2-color capability).

In addition, the university has core facilities that are available for use by trainees.

 Diversity and Inclusion

The Department of Medicine at Northwestern University seeks to attract inquisitive, motivated residents and fellows and is committed to providing them with every opportunity for success. The greatest challenges facing the medical field are complex, and addressing them will require a diverse body of physicians and researchers who can work collaboratively. Northwestern offers unparalleled training and research opportunities and encourages fellowship applications from those who seek to become future leaders in the subspecialties of medicine.  We are committed to and inspired by a diverse and inclusive work environment that allows each trainee to achieve their personal goals.

For more information on Northwestern’s commitment to diversity please see the following resources: