Our research is really inspired by the idea
that our skin is both a rich immunological organ but also an organ that is home to a
multitude of different microorganisms. And these immune cells and these bacterial
cells that live in the skin are not only in close proximity, but now we know also continual dialogue. So, what we’re really trying to understand
with our research is how these two populations communicate and develop a symbiotic relationship,
especially in the very earliest stages of life. When we are first born this is when our immune system is highly dynamic and learning to interact with these microbes. We found that there is a very nice window
of opportunity here to establish a healthy rapport between the immune system and the microbiome. In dermatology, we treat many patients that
have severe inflammatory skin diseases, in which we think there is a disrupted relationship
between skin bacteria and the skin immune system. And so by studying how this healthy relationship
is established, we’re hoping also to uncover how it can go awry in the context of these
disorders, and hopefully identify mechanisms that we can target and correct to treat these
patients in a more effective manner. So, I was actually the daughter of both a
physician scientist and a dermatologist, so perhaps my path was carved before I even knew it. But I was introduced to this idea of skin
very early from my mother, who is also a dermatologist, and it really connected for me though, when
I actually got to study it at the scientific level. And I think what is tremendous about this
area is how accessible the skin is in terms of an organ to look at scientifically, we
can see it, we can touch it, and we can sample it in much more facile ways that we could
with other aspects of the body. My father actually was a physician scientist
here with a lab just two floors down from where my lab currently is housed, so I feel
very connected to the city, to the university and it is really just a fantastic place to
do this type of research. Receipt of the LEO Foundation Silver Award
is of course a tremendous honor and recognition of what we are trying to do here, but I think
equally exciting is the validation of the skin microbiome field as such a promising
one in skin research. A unique aspect of this award is the really
leverage that it allows the researcher to choose what they want to do with it and not
something that you find in many grants these days. So I think what is really exciting is the
opportunity then to take more chances in what we are doing, and try and be more innovative
in using the funds. I have been very privileged to benefit from
great mentorship throughout my career and definitely one of my goals is to do the same
for people I work with. I think I try and you know give them my time,
my ear and really bring out in them whatever they are most passionate about, and if I can
achieve that, then that is really a success.