My primary interests include expanding diversity of the bioscience research community, particularly at the PhD level, and understanding immune defenses against viruses, specifically the roles of interferons and early/innate mechanisms of defense.
My current work centers on expanding diversity within the PhD-level grad student community in the Rutgers-New Brunswick/RBHS biosciences, particularly - but not exclusively - for students from historically under-represented groups. This is supported through the NIH-funded “Initiative for Maximizing Student Development” (IMSD) program, initiated in 1996, and of which I’m one of the Principal Investigators, with the strong support of our partner graduate programs and the grad school. We’ve provided financial support, mentoring,and professional/personal development programs to over 100 bioscience PhD candidates who have chosen diverse career paths, and include non-IMSD students in many of our programs. We have used the IMSD as a focus for nurturing a supportive community of bioscience PhD students from diverse backgrounds.
My teaching and research focuses on early immune defenses, particularly against viruses. Before recently closing my laboratory, I spent most of my career exploring the molecular biology of the Type I interferons, particularly: (1) why we are endowed with a family of 17 Type I interferons; (2) ligand:receptor interactions, including mapping the interface between human Type I interferons and the interferon receptor subunit 1; (3) developing a Type I IFN analogue that acts as a partial antagonist for native interferons (a collaboration with Dr. Gideon Schreiber, Weizmann Institute). This antagonist opened the possibility of using such a molecular for the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; lupus), as well as having an important reagent for fundamental in vitro studies. I continue to teach about immune defenses against viruses.