New Investigators: This Year’s ISEH NIC Invited Speaker is…

Every year at the ISEH meeting, the New Investigator Committee (NIC) invites one speaker to present in the New Investigator Award Session. For this year’s meeting in Brisbane, we have invited Marella de Bruijn PhD, Professor of Developmental Haematopoiesis at the University of Oxford. Marella completed her PhD at the University of Rotterdam in 1997 and went on to do postdoctoral training with Profs. Elaine Dzierzak and Nancy Speck, In 2003, Marella started her own lab at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford, where she has focused on understanding the genetic regulation of developmental blood formation. Besides running her research laboratory, Marella has been heavily involved in training and mentorship at Oxford and within ISEH, and is this year’s organizer of the ISEH pre-meeting workshop. In preparation for her invited talk at ISEH, we caught up with Marella to find out more about her interests and her science.

Q&A with Marella de Bruijn:
Q1. How would you describe your science?
My lab studies the development of the hematopoietic system in the embryo. Our work sits at the crossroads of developmental biology, hematopoiesis, and gene regulation, and aims to trace developmental trajectories, niche interactions, and early fate decisions that underpin the development of the hemato-immunological system in ontogeny. We hope our work will contribute to the development of robust protocols for de novo generation of blood stem cells and immune lineages from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for research and therapeutic purposes.

Q2. What do you think will be the next big trend in experimental hematology in the next ten years?
It is hard to look that far ahead, given the current speed of new technological and computational biology developments. Different ‘omics' approaches will continue to come together further. Linking single cell transcriptional, epigenetic, metabolic, and protein analyses with spatial, lineage tracing, and functional data will yield new biological and mechanistic insights into the developing and adult hematopoietic and immune systems, both in health and disease.

Q3. Which scientists have inspired you?
Too many to name. And for very different reasons too. It can be because of an elegant piece of work, great scholarship, a beautifully written paper, great companionship, a wise word, a casual – but very timely – remark, high personal integrity and professional conduct in difficult circumstances, important new insights, never giving up, enthusiasm and love for the research, or great mentorship. And this list is not exhaustive. I have been inspired by many colleagues and friends close by and further afield, and by mentors, mentees, students and postdocs: people have a lot to offer and share with each other.

Q4. What do you most value in a student or a member of your team?

Several things, including being honest, self-motivated, curious, and passionate about their work and life, with a drive to deliver high quality work, and become their best possible self. As I have a small group I like them to be team players.

Q5. What do you enjoy doing, apart from science?
Spending time out of doors, with canoeing down the Thames as the last addition to the list. Especially when the sun shines!

We are looking forward to Marella’s presentation in Brisbane (Saturday 24th August at 3pm), and we hope that you’ll be able to join us for it too! And if you sign up to the New Investigators Meet-The-Expert Mixer event (Friday 23rd August at 8pm), you will also get the chance to chat with Marella over drinks and nibbles.

By the ISEH New Investigator Committee


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