Immunology in the spotlight

The study of the immune system in both healthy and pathological stages is known as immunology. It includes researching how the body fights infections caused by bacteria and viruses, how it detects cancer cells, and developing medicinal therapies to cure and prevent disease.

What is the significance of immunology?

Immunology research is vital to human and animal health and survival. It is at the cutting edge of medical research and has resulted in several significant healthcare advancements in recent years, such as vaccination for new viruses (e.g., COVID-19) and cancer immunotherapy. Immunologists are working on novel cures for some of the most severe diseases afflicting humanity, such as infectious diseases (influenza and Ebola), autoimmune ailments (type 1 diabetes and Lupus), and malignancies. The immune system is highly complicated, and we don’t fully understand it.

What types of jobs are available?

Immunologists operate in a variety of fields. Immunologists can be found working as scientists at universities, drug developers or researchers in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields, clinical scientists in the healthcare system, or doctors, nurses, and veterinarians.

How can I get started in immunology?

There are several paths that one might take to become an immunologist. The typical approach is to get an undergraduate degree in immunology or a related bioscience field, followed by postgraduate studies, such as a Ph.D., concentrating on a specific immune system element in greater depth. Some people, however, opt to go right into employment after finishing their undergraduate degree and earning additional certifications while doing so.

A day in the life of an Immunologist

Paul Ernest Love, MD, PhD, an immunologist, directs a lab investigating two research lines that have potential translational uses of fundamental research for human care. His team has achieved ground-breaking findings altering how scientists think about T cells. Dr. Love’s lab looks at whether changing certain T cell antigen receptor (TCR) sequences will increase cell activation and function, particularly tumor cell killing capacity. As a result, this research looks at whether TCR signal transducing subunits may be ‘tuned’ to improve TCR-mediated cell activation and tumor killing. The second line of study is devoted to identifying and characterizing a family of molecules which suppress TCR signals and act as a signal controlling proteins.

Dr. Love’s broad research interests are on mammalian hematopoiesis. The lab has a long history of investigating T cell formation, which begins with migrating multipotent progenitor cells to the thymus from hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. Immature T cells then go through a series of developmental steps in the thymus, including a selection process that promotes the development of functional cells while deleting overtly self-reactive partitions, eventually leading to the generation of mature “self-tolerant” T lymphocytes that exit the thymus and populate the peripheral lymphoid organs.

Dr. Love acquired a B.S. in Biochemistry from Syracuse University and an M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester’s Medical-Scientist Training (MSTP) program. Before performing post-doctoral research at NICHD, he completed a residency program in Laboratory Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and a fellowship in Human Genetics at NICHD. In 1993, he became an intramural Principal Investigator, and he is currently a tenured Senior Investigator and the director of the NICHD Section on Hematopoiesis and Lymphocyte Biology.