My academic activities provide a platform from which I strive to support DEI initiatives and practices. First, the trainees in my group come from diverse scientific and socio-cultural backgrounds, which provides a rich environment that enhances the scientific enterprise and code of conduct in the laboratory. Second, through my role as the Director of the Michigan Pioneer Postdoctoral Program - a program that supports the training of outstanding postdoctoral fellows in the setting of collaborative research projects involving 2-3 faculty PIs at the University of Michigan – I work to promote a robust professional development environment with a strong focus on inclusiveness and diversity. Third, as the Director of Admissions and Recruitment for the Pharmacology Graduate Program, I actively implement an inclusive and holistic review process with the goal of having well-represented and diverse cohorts. Finally, I participate and engage in various Departmental and University initiatives to raise awareness and establish policies related to DEI issues.
The property of sensing and initiating directional migration in response to external cues is a fundamental property of biological systems. In metazoans, for instance, this behavior is essential for a variety of fundamental processes including embryogenesis, adult tissue homeostasis, inflammation and immune responses, as well as metastatic invasion. Our research program aims to understand how cells detect and respond to external chemotactic signals and, in particular, how the spatial and temporal relay of chemotactic signals between cells impact single and group cell migration. The cornerstone of our approach to studying this paradigm is the tagging of signaling protein effectors with the green fluorescent protein (GFP) to visualize where, when and how relevant cascades are activated in live cells. Along with several other experimental tools, the outcome of our live imaging efforts led us to propose novel mechanisms to explain how chemotactic gradients are transduced and amplified in simple and complex biological settings. Our studies of chemotaxis involve three distinct model systems with complementary virtues: Dictyostelium discoideum, Mammalian neutrophils, and breast cancer metastatic cell lines.