William Green, PhD, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Geisel, and Dartmouth PhD candidate Megan O’Connor, are among the 37 principal investigators and their dedicated trainees to receive the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) inaugural Careers in Immunology Fellowship award. The fellowship provides a one-year stipend for trainees and is awarded based on a combination of the trainee’s potential and merit of the research project.
“This AAI award is a very special one that acknowledges Megan’s outstanding background in research, her cutting-edge studies to date and proposal here at Dartmouth, and by extension, my lab’s work in this retroviral system over the last twenty years,” Green says. “I couldn’t be more pleased by the distinction it brings to Megan, and Geisel, including our NIH T32 Training Grant in Immunology, which previously supported her for two years as one of our best PhD students.”
Green’s primary research focus is on viral pathogenesis and cell-mediated immunity to mouse retroviruses—persistent infections that evade a host’s immune response—that cause either immunodeficiency or leukemia. O’Connor’s interest lies in understanding the immune response during LP-BM5 (murine retrovirus) infection, which causes immunodeficiency in mice (mouse AIDS) to study HIV and other retroviral infections.
“My project is looking at what cell types may be contributing to the immunosuppressive environment as a way to better understand cellular targets for HIV immunotherapy,” O’Connor explains. “There are two main inhibitory cell types, T-regulatory cells and myeloid derived suppressor cells, which are shown to be immunosuppressive during viral infections and in cancer—I’m focusing on how these two cell types may be communicating with each other during LP-BM5 infection.”
O’Connor has identified that in the absence of regulatory T cells, the myeloid derived suppressor cells have an altered phenotype and have a greater capacity to suppress other immune cells. A second project is looking at different subsets of myeloid derived suppressor cells and how they are able to differentially suppress other immune cells.
“I’m very honored to have received this award,” she says. “This fellowship will help propel my thesis work and allow me to fully pursue additional experiments and ideas associated with these projects.”
The American Association of Immunologists is an association of professionally trained scientists from around the world dedicated to advancing the knowledge of immunology and its related disciplines and addressing the potential integration of immunologic principles into clinical practice.