Travel grants to go - Lisa Lombardi

01 October 2018 - By: Lisa Lombardi

Travel grants to go - Lisa Lombardi

Lisa Lombardi
Lisa Lombardi. Photo: Eoin Ó Cinnéide

Lisa travelled to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA in August to attend the “Molecular Mycology: Current Approaches to Fungal Pathogenesis” course.

Lisa’s research focuses on Candida species, with particular regard to the hostyeast interaction, which she has studied with different and complementary approaches including generation of null mutants by both site directed deletion and CRISPRCas9 mediated editing; heterologous protein expression; biophysics techniques such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy and fluorescence polarization-based assays. Lisa attended the course to improve her technical skills, experience working with different fungi and also to expand her network of connections.

“The Molecular Mycology (MOMY) course allowed 18 international students to work together and learn more about the current approaches that are available for studying fungal biology. Twenty different faculty members alternated for 2 weeks, providing us with scientific guidance and helping us think about our career development.

Under the supervision of the course directors, Dr Damian Krysan from University of Iowa, and Dr Xiaorong Lin from University of Georgia, we alternated lectures in the morning and experimental activity in the afternoon. Speakers from both academia and industry dug deeper into some of the most interesting aspects of fungal biology and pathogenesis, including research on drug targets, vaccine strategies, interactions between fungi and host defences and immune response.

Ten experiments had been carried out in parallel over the course of the 2 weeks. As I had previously only worked with Candida species, it was very interesting to have the opportunity to genetically manipulate Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus. This provided me with a solid foundation on which I can further build upon if I wish to expand my research into these fungi.

I found the confocal microscopy on fungal biofilms aspect of the course particularly interesting, as it is immediately applicable to my current research project. Many lectures were also linked, either directly or indirectly, to the study of biofilm communities, and that greatly broadened my knowledge on the topic. In addition I learned more about the use of murine models of fungal infections, and the potential of Zebrafish as a model for studying the real time interaction of the fungal cells with the immune system. The course also got me interested in looking into the host side of the fungal-host interaction, and pushed me to learn more about this delicate balance.

The environment fostered interactions and brainstorming among the students and faculty. The nuts and bolts discussions provided us with useful insights into the technical background of widely used techniques. I had the chance to discuss in more detail the aspects that were more relevant to my current research which led to some interesting problem solving. The faculty also shared with us their personal career path experience and as a result, not only our breadth of knowledge in fungal biology grew, but also the network of mentors that we may rely on for guidance in our professional (and personal) development expanded.

Throughout the duration of the course we also took part in a few social events which contributed to the networking experience. The very first whole-team effort was designing the official T-shirt of the MOMY course, class 2018, and we did an amazing job! Then the students organized a mushroom hunt, and a trip to Martha’s Vineyard. We also went bowling, and proved that you can enjoy it even if you are not particularly good at it (like me). A banquet was organized on the last night where we all had the chance to eat lobster (with a bib) and talk about this experience. Needless to say, everybody was very happy to have been there, and we were very proud to be the class 2018 of the MOMY course.

Overall I feel that this was a turning point for my career, and I cannot wait to see the impact that this experience will have on my future. I came across people that followed distinct career paths, and that opened up my horizon in terms of professional development. I also established connections that may turn into collaborations in the future.

Category: Cell Biology

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