Showing posts from 2018

Lab Spotlight: Stachura Lab

Each month, Simply Blood spotlights a lab focused on the research of basic hematology, immunology, stem cell research, cell and gene therapy, and other related aspects.  Get to know these different labs around the world! This month, we are featuring the Stachura Lab at California State University, Chico.  

How long have you had your lab?  
Since 2014

How many members make up your lab?  Students/postdocs? 
I currently have 12 members; 6 undergraduate students and 6 Master’s students.  I’m at a primarily undergraduate institution, so I don’t have any Ph.D. students or postdocs.  

What is the major research theme of your lab?  
Our major goal is to discover genes essential for hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell differentiation and proliferation, and how this normal process is disrupted in blood diseases.

What is the most exciting project in your lab right now?
We have a few exciting projects going in the lab, and they are pretty diverse.  Some students are looking at anti-cancer drug…

Things Nobody Told Me about Being a PI - Part 3

Welcome back to the blog series “Things Nobody Told me About Being a PI”.  In part 1, we covered financial/administrative management.  Part 2 dealt with personnel/team management.  In the final installment, I would like to touch on an issue which was a big personal adjustment for me.

Something that was completely unexpected for me as a new PI was a sense of loneliness.  As a post-doc, you are probably used to working in a busy lab, maybe in a bay of 2-3 other trainees all bustling around doing experiments.  This builds a sense of comradery as you bond over failed experiments, talk about exciting new papers, and maybe plan what beers you are going to try at happy hour that afternoon.  As a new PI, you often spend a lot of time alone in your office - writing grants / papers, attending to the masses of incoming email, and handling all your regulatory protocols.  Even though you might be surrounded by people running around in the lab, and even other PIs down the hall, the relative silence …

Lab Spotlight: Trompouki Lab

Each month, Simply Blood spotlights a lab focused on the research of basic hematology, immunology, stem cell research, cell and gene therapy, and other related aspects.  Get to know these different labs around the world! This month, we are featuring the Trompouki Lab at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany.  

How long have you had your lab?
I have had my lab for four and a half years now. Time flies!

How many members make up your lab?  Students/postdocs?
Right now my lab consists of four graduate students, but one is very close to graduating!! This will be the first student graduating from our lab. We have also a postdoctoral fellow and a technician. Finally, a master student and an intern complete the current composition of our team.

What is the major research theme of your lab?
We are working on hematopoiesis, both developmental and adult, using zebrafish, mouse and human cells as models. A bit too much for a small lab, but we think that each …

Making the Leap, Part 6. Prepare for Landing

Faculty interviews are over. You’ve negotiated your offers and decided on an institution that fits your needs. Your signed letter has been sent back and (importantly) has been approved by the dean(s) or other institutional heads, making it official. Maybe you’ve made or have scheduled a couple of additional visits to your future scientific home. The end of your post-doctoral training is in sight. Now what? I made my final decision to join the faculty of University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in July of 2015, with a planned start date at the beginning of November that year. The intervening time was full of excitement and anticipation, and plenty of work to tie together loose ends in my postdoc and set the stage for my faculty position. Now that you’ve made the leap, here are a few things to consider as you prepare for landing.

1) Celebrate. Don’t overlook this. You’ve worked hard and all of the effort has borne fruit. It’s worth getting your friends, colleagues and mentor(s) …

Things Nobody Told Me about Being a PI - Part 2

In part 1 of this series we covered financial/administrative management.  The second major thing I was completely untrained for in becoming a PI was personality management.  In the very beginning, I was always frustrated that projects and experiments were not progressing at the rate I was accustomed to.  What I had to learn very quickly was to stop projecting my expectations onto the people working in my lab.  When I was planning the new projects in my lab, I would lay out timelines based on my own level of production, and then I would get frustrated when these deadlines were not met.  One thing you have to realize is that the people who go on to run their own lab are a different breed.  To get a PI position, you have to be a highly motivated and dedicated post-doc who is used to working independently to maintain high productivity.  It is unfair to expect these standards from everyone working in your lab, and I had to adjust my expectations accordingly.  That’s not to say that everyon…

Stories of a Non-traditional Career Path

Not everyone's career path is traditional.  Gabriel Leung and April Apostol are "more seasoned" graduate students in the Quantitative and Systems Biology program at the University of California, Merced. Here, they share their atypical trajectories to graduate school, and why they think embarking on a PhD a bit later in life better prepared them for the road ahead.

Growing up, science always had a place at the table;  Growing up, science always had a place at the table; my dad made a habit of interjecting notes about science into our dinnertime conversations. My dad had a small scientific library, in my early teens I loved to explore them and see how far I could read before I was completely confused. Included in this collection was, “the Molecular Biology of the Gene”, by James D. Watson, 1965, first edition. Amazingly, I was able to understand it and, by the time it was required-reading for my undergraduate eukaryotic molecular biology class, I was also amazed at h…

Getting a Job at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution

In my last post, I spoke about my transition from functioning primarily as a researcher to becoming a professor that has more teaching responsibility at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI). What’s different about life at a PUI? Well, the main focus is on undergraduate education. As we are scientists, much of our scholarship is still focused on performing impactful research. The difference? We are less dependent on soft money and integrate undergraduate students into our research whenever we can. I also integrate my research into the classes that I teach to get more students exposed to hematology and immunology. After all, it is a proven best practice for students learning science to actually do science! As you might imagine, it is a much different process getting a job at a PUI compared to obtaining a research position. Here are some tips for preparing and getting a job at a PUI.

Prepare for the career change. Think you want to teach? You should try it out! Some suggestions? T…

Lab Spotlight: Ott Laboratory

Simply Blood Lab Spotlight
Each month, Simply Blood spotlights a lab focused on the research of basic hematology, immunology, stem cell research, cell and gene therapy, and other related aspects.  Get to know these different labs around the world! This month, we are featuring the Ott Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital.

How long have you had your lab?
We opened the lab here at the MGH Cancer Center in September, 2017.

How many members make up your lab? Students/postdocs?
Currently the lab is staffed with a lab manager and two research technicians - one in charge of running high-throughput small molecule screening assays and another in charge of functional genetic assays using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. We also have a computational analyst in our group who is responsible for processing and analyzing genome-wide transcriptomic and epigenomic datasets. Currently we are in the process of recruiting several postdoctoral fellows, including a synthetic organic chemist and a m…

Regulation of Translation in Blood Stem Cells

The laboratory of Dr. Vijay Sankaran at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard recently reported a breakthrough discovery about the role of ribosome levels in human hematopoiesis and Diamond-Blackfan Anemia (DBA). DBA is a genetic blood disorder that is caused by mutations in genes that encode ribosomal proteins (RPs), and results in low red blood cell counts. Since RPs are broadly involved in protein translation, one of the outstanding questions was why RP gene mutations would cause reduced red blood cell counts without affecting other hematopoietic lineages.

In the paper, that was published in the journal Cell (, Rajiv Khajuria et al. modeled loss-of-function mutations in RP genes that are found in DBA patients. They found that limited availability of ribosomes differentially affects mRNA transcripts, and especially reduces translation of transcripts with short or unstructured 5’ UTRs that are necessary for …

Innovations in Multiparametric Flow Cytometry

Of all of the tools available to biomedical scientists, flow cytometry ranks among the most powerful. Its capacity to interrogate tens of thousands of cells per second and to measure multiple parameters simultaneously, coupled with its flexibility, has established this technique as central to the experimental process in many different disciplines. This is all the more true for hematology, whose target cells’ size, shape, and nature to exist as a single-cell suspensions makes flow cytometry indispensable for addressing biological questions we ask.

Flow cytometry in some form has been around since the 1940s, when it was used to detect bacteria in aerosols through illumination by a Ford headlight and detected via a photomultiplier tube (Gucker FT et al., 1947; for historical overview on flow cytometry, see Shapiro H, 2003). Since then, the technique’s development has been immense, limited essentially only by the technological constraints of the time. As lasers became smaller, so did flow…

Things Nobody Told Me about Being a PI - Part 1

You may be able to do 50 mini-preps in an hour, or prepare next-generation sequencing libraries like nobody’s business, but there are several skills that are essential for running a successful lab for which no prior training was provided.
OK, so you have had a productive post-doc, published some nice papers, maybe even secured some independent funding.  Then the almost unthinkable happens, your hard work pays off and you secure at tenure-track faculty position at the research institute of your dreams.  YAY!  This was my situation about 6-years ago.  It was fun, exciting, daunting, challenging, and exhausting all at the same time.  All of you aspiring PIs out there by now have a reasonable idea of what the expectations are as a junior faculty member (beautifully laid out in detail in Simply Blood posts last year from Dr. Eric Pietras;  Pretty simple right – publish good papers, secure independent grant funding, mentor trainees to be useful membe…