by Karen Richardson
The molecular regulation of cytokine production in HIV infection is the research focus of Katrina Gee, Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology. She is working toward the understanding of how various signaling pathways are intricately involved in the regulation of host cell functions in HIV infection. "It is understanding the interaction between virus and host," she says.
Dr. Gee, who has published about 17 immunology journal articles, completed her PhD in cancer research at the University of Ottawa followed by a post-doctoral degree in HIV research at the Ottawa Health Research Institute. Her current work has applications for potential avenues of therapies or vaccines. While her research is "not a cure in itself," Dr. Gee says it provides "one piece in a jigsaw puzzle" toward understanding better therapies.
Graduate students in Gee's laboratory are currently examining how HIV is affecting cytokine regulation, and are investigating two newly-described cytokines, as their function with respect to HIV infection is not understood.
HIV research is just one area of focus for researchers in the department. Research on anti-bacterials, the herpes virus, and the human immune system are just some of the other research areas in the department.
Dr. Gee says graduate students in the department learn how to think in a logical and scientific fashion. "They need to troubleshoot and learn how to think on their feet and be creative. If they happen to make a mistake, they learn how to save their work." She says the department is very close-knit. "The students are very close even though they have different areas of research and unique sets of experiments and projects-they are all interconnected among the disciplines of virology, immunology and microbiology."