What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?
We currently have two major cancer-related projects. One investigates novel signaling pathways involved in colon cancer, both in the colonic compartment and in the immune compartment. The second project investigates transcriptional and epigenetic regulators of the immune responses to pathogens, to tumors and in autoimmunity.
Why did you decide to focus on cancer?
Cancer is a major problem of our society and there are still so many unknowns. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common and deadliest malignancies in United States. Also, patients with inflammatory bowel diseases are more prone to develop colon cancer. I find colon cancer as being extremely interesting not only through the colonic (epithelial/stem cell) compartment, but also through the critical role of the immune microenvironment in this disease. It is one of the systems in which an inflammatory microenvironment progresses in time into an immune suppressive microenvironment. The immune microenvironment associated with colon cancer, its impact on tumor initiation and progression, is of high interest for us.
What excites you about your work?
Of major excitement are the unexpected discoveries as well as being part of developing the next generation of scientists. Most of the people in my lab are students, graduate and undergraduate. It is a lot of work and it is not always very easy, but I love to see how students grow into becoming scientists. There is amazing talent here at UF, and I am very proud to be part of developing the next generation of scientists.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to travel, listen to classical music, growing orchids and other exotic plants and taking care of my cat, Lulu.