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Meet Our 2018 Travel Award Recipients

Learn a little more about the 2018 NAVBO Travel Award Recipients

Members of the NAVBO Membership Committee are holding interviews with our recent travel award recipients to find out a little bit more about them, what brought them to NAVBO and what their future will bring.

Mabruka Alfaidi, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

 

Mabruka stands with Drs. Masanori Aikawa and
Bill Muller as she is presented with her Travel
Award at Vascular Biology 2018

VB2018 14In a recent interview with Dr. Arif Yurdagul of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Mabruka shared some of her meeting experiences. 

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I had originally wanted to attend the AHA meeting in 2014 to present my work outside the UK, but my mentor at the time, Dr. Sheila Francis, suggested that the NAVBO conference may be better-suited for what I wanted. Upon my abstract being selected to present an oral presentation, I’ve been a member since then.

Tell us about the research you presented and your mentor?
I was interested in different aspects of endothelial cell biology and when I attended NAVBO in 2014 I met Dr. Wayne Orr, who was investigating how endothelial cells responded to different types of shear stress. Along with Dr. Martin Schwartz, he defined how the extracellular matrix impacted proinflammatory responses and identified Pak and Nck as central players in these pathways-where Pak/Nck association promoted both NF-kB activation and endothelial cell permeability. We’ve since identified various roles for different Nck isoforms in response to shear stress in vitro and in vivo.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
The nanotalks were by far my favorite event - even though the talks were about 5 minutes long, I was able to learn so much.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
I met Dr. Masanori Aikawa, I’ve always looked up to him. At my poster, I managed to talk and receive feedback from many scientists that have a great impact on my research, including Drs. Yun Fang, Filip Swirski, and Carlos Fernandez-Hernando.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
The recognition was extremely positive. I received much more attention at my poster than I’ve had in previous meetings. Furthermore, because of the travel award, I'm now able to go to another meeting to further discuss my work. Without the NAVBO travel award, this would have been much more difficult.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
The culture that has been cultivated at NAVBO allows for great interactions between senior scientists and trainees, especially meetings at lunch and dinner times. The trainees get a lot of attention, which helps us move toward the next steps in our careers. In addition to attending meetings, I also feel like I contribute-something that has been very rewarding by having a one on one time during the poster sessions.

What future goals do you have for your work?
Build on the work I presented at the NAVBO meeting and publish the work. Also apply for different transition grants.

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
By presenting my work at the meeting, I received questions that I didn’t consider before - this has allowed me to substantiate some of the results I got. I’ve also received advice from senior investigators that has allowed me to better strategize my career plans.

Contributor:  Arif Yurdagul, Columbia University 
Published December 13, 2018 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Thanh Theresa Dinh, Stanford University

 

Theresa stands with Drs. Masanori Aikawa and
Bill Muller as she is presented with her Travel
Award at Vascular Biology 2018

VB2018 15In a recent interview with Dr. Mary Wallingford of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Theresa shared some of her meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I first learned about NAVBO while looking for pertinent conferences in my field.

Tell us about the research you presented?
I am looking at the role of two transcription factors and how they act on the molecular level to modulate high endothelial cell identity,a specialized type of EC that is imperative for leukocyte trafficking.

How did your mentor facilitate this work?
My mentor supports me through guidance of my research, monetary assistance and is a sound board of my ideas and hypothesis.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
The poster session.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
Yes, I was able to hear/meet Paul Kubes, Courtney Griffin, Karen Hirschi and William Muller. Courtney, especially, was able to give me insight on the academic process and being a mother while juggling her career.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
It allowed me to attend the conference and listen to leaders of the field speak. In addition, I was able to present my research and get direct feedback on my work. All things I would not have been able to do had I not gotten the travel award.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
The opportunity to network and develop collaborations with other members in the field.

What future goals do you have for your work?
To publish in a high impact journal and obtain a faculty position!

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
To provide more networking opportunities.

Contributor: Mary Wallingford, Tufts Medical Center
Published January 10, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Nadiya Khyzha, University Health Network at the University of Toronto

 

Nadiya Khyzha

NadiyaKhyzha 2In a recent interview with Dr. Mary Wallingford of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Nadiya shared some of her meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
From my lab. Our lab is heavily focused on vascular endothelial cell biology so attending NAVBO is almost a yearly tradition. There's typically at least one person from the lab attending every year.

Tell us about the research you presented?
My research looks at the regulation of NF-kB signalling via non-coding mechanisms in endothelial cells. The project that I've presented focused on the role of long non-coding RNAs in acute inflammation and seeing how they fine tune the expression of their neighboring protein coding genes.

How did your mentor facilitate this work?
Working on long non-coding RNAs was something completely new in my mentor's lab and in Toronto in general. So, my mentor was very open minded and supportive to try a new avenue of research. I was also given a lot of freedom to play around with different ideas and to establish techniques not previously available in the lab. Perhaps it meant that the project took longer to complete but that was critical for my development as a scientist.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
I'd say the poster sessions and other networking events. It's always nice to meet people and learn about research that's outside the scope of what I'm normally thinking about.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
For sure! My research tends to be very molecular based, so it's easy to get caught up in my own niche and lose perspective of the big picture. I find that a lot of the talks at NAVBO take me out of my lncRNA bubble and make me think about how my research applies to vascular biology in the grand scheme of things.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
Being able to present my work to a wide group of audience has been a really great way to gain exposure for my project. Also, the 2018 meeting had a few researchers working on noncoding RNAs so it was great to get their opinion on my project.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
Attending NAVBO is a great opportunity to present your work and get valuable feedback on it. The size of the NAVBO meeting is also perfect to meet people and to form collaborations.

What future goals do you have for your work?
Getting it published!

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
The lack of community of lncRNA researches in Toronto has been one of the big challenges during my PhD. So, international events like NAVBO are always exciting because it's an opportunity to meet other researchers working on lncRNAs. Now that I'm trying to wrap up my paper, NAVBO has provided me a great opportunity to get that last-minute feedback on my work from other lncRNA researchers.

Contributor: Mary Wallingford, Tufts Medical Center
Published January 24, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Monica Lee, University of Illinois in Chicago

 

Monica stands with Drs. Ondine Cleaver and
William Sessa as she is presented with her Travel
Award at Vascular Biology 2018

MonicaLeeIn a recent interview with Randa Breikaa of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Monica shared some of her meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I learned of NAVBO during my postdoctoral training when my research began to delve into angiogenesis. Several faculty at my current research center were also actively involved with the organization, which largely helped with exposure to NAVBO.

Tell us about the research you presented and your mentor?
My postdoctoral work is centered around understanding the role of endothelial function in vascular homeostasis, namely in the context of Akt signaling. This was a naturally fitting topic for my training given the seminal work done on the Akt-eNOS kinase-substrate relationship achieved by my mentor, Dr. William C. Sessa. My current research is now focused on addressing how endothelial-specific Akt activity contributes to atherosclerotic disease progression.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
I thoroughly enjoyed the poster sessions in the evenings. The set up provides a great atmosphere for scientific discussion amongst researchers at all levels, providing opportunities for networking and future collaborations.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
My current interests on endothelial Akt signaling seems to relate in part with many research interests of others, likely due to the vast influence of endothelial tissue in all organ function. This led to many engaging discussions at the meeting, allowing myself to see my own research from alternative perspectives.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
The travel award helped promote my science and generate discussion on my presented research.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
The NAVBO conferences are a great opportunity to meet researchers at all levels in both your immediate and adjacent fields. The size of the conference is also one that allows for direct scientific interaction amongst the trainees and the thought leaders of the field.

What future goals do you have for your work?
Cardiovascular disease pathogenesis is preceded by the hallmarks of endothelial impairment, where several high-impact diseases are heavily associated with Akt dysregulation. I hope that my ongoing investigation into endothelial-specific Akt signaling will make a positive contribution to our current understanding of vascular health.

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
The NAVBO meetings are a great venue to both present your research and to gain knowledge in all areas of vascular biology. I hope my involvement with NAVBO will continue to provide opportunities to share my research, while invoking scientific curiosity in the upcoming generation of academic scientists.

Contributor: Randa Breikaa, Nationwide Children's Hospital
Published February 21, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Tvisha Misra, Sickkids

 

Tvisha Misra

MisraTvishajpgIn a recent interview with Dr. Mary Wallingford of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Tvisha shared some of her meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I learned about NAVBO from word of mouth from colleagues and also from my mentor who encouraged me to attend and present my work and learn more about the field.

Tell us about the research you presented?
In the Scott lab I am looking at the role of ccm3in early development and disease. Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) are focal dilations in the cerebral vasculature leading tohaemorrhaging, strokes and in extreme cases death. Of the three proteins associated with CCMs, CCM1/2/3, loss of CCM3, a highly conserved scaffold protein, leads to the most severe form of the disease. Though various models have been used to study endpointvascular defects, not much is known about the earliest cellular events which eventually lead to CCMs. We use the zebrafish as a vertebrate model to understand the role of Ccm3 in early vascular development and disease progression. I used CRISPR/CAS9 to generateand characterise vascular defects in ccm3mutant models. A lot of my work focuses on time lapse imaging of developing blood vessels in early embryos to characterise when and how the vascular defects arise. Ccm3 has no known enzymatic activity and isproposed to function as a scaffold protein. Our collaborators in the Gingras lab (author list from the abstract), conducted BioID to find interaction partners (the ‘interactome’) of Ccm3. We selected the strongest candidates to probe their role in vasculardevelopment through generating CRISPR/CAS9 mutants. I am, thus, establishing a model to study Ccm3 function in vivoover time, and, probing Ccm3 function and mechanism of action through understanding the role of its interaction partners in vascular development.

How did you mentor facilitate this work?
Dr Scott has always been very supportive of my choice of project and the methods I use to address my questions. He has always encouraged me to develop the projects in directions where my own interests lie and is always available for scientific input. He has also always encouraged me to attend various conferences and present my work to get as much exposure in the community as I want.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
For me it was the lunch with PIs on day 2. Many times we do not get to interact with people who are not directly related to our own fields specially if we are presenters (posters give a bit more one on one interaction time, I suppose), and most interactions are limited to the science we present. An event like this gave us the chance to talk not just about our research and results but future prospects in academia and the individual PIs’ philosophies relates to various scientific careers and possibilities. As trainees looking to stay in an academic research environment such input is very useful. All the trainees I talked to also really enjoyed the lunch and we were hoping that we could have more such events in the future.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
Absolutely. Interestingly, during my journey from the airport to the resort I was assigned to a car with a group leader whose recent work relates directly with my current project and part of what I presented at the conference and I had a wonderful time discussing my results with him. Just after my talk I was approached by another group leader who talked in length to me about my work and gave his input on various aspects of my project. It was great to have these one on one discussions with various experts in the field.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
As a postdoctoral fellow in my third year, I look for every opportunity to present my work and learn as much about the field as possible. Travel awards like these allow me to attend more such meetings than the usual limited funding would allow. Of course, such awards also contribute towards building my scientific portfolio for my future.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO and how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals??
Smaller, more specialized conferences such as NAVBO give trainees like us the opportunity to communicate with the leaders of our fields in a closer setting than what one experiences at bigger meetings. I really enjoyed talking to some members who had been attending the conference for many years and seeing the sense of community that has built up in that time. Everyone I talked to were very positive about their experiences and since I am interested in pursuing a career in basic research in an academic environment I look forward to attending more NAVBO conferences in the coming years.

What future goals do you have for your work?
My interest in the vascular system started with my work with drosophila tracheal development during my doctoral work, which I translated to studying the vascular system in fish for my postdoctoralproject. I am fascinated by the mechanisms that control vascular development and maintenance of proper cardio-vascular function, and the zebrafish, for me, provides a great model to study this using advanced genetic and microscopy techniques. I hope to continue to conduct such research in an academic environment in the future as well.


Tvisha's abstract:
Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) are focal dilations in the cerebral vasculature leading to haemorrhaging, strokes and in extreme cases death. Of the three proteins associated withCCM, CCM1/2/3, loss of CCM3, a highly conserved scaffold protein, leads to the most severe form of the disease. Though various models have been used to study endpoint vascular defects, not much is known about the earliest cellular events which eventually leadto CCMs. We use the zebrafish as a vertebrate model to understand the role of Ccm3 in early vascular development and disease progression. With CRISPR/CAS9 we generated a ccm3a/bdouble mutant.ccm3a/b(-/-)embryos exhibit cardiac edemas,loss of blood flow, and embryonic lethality. Time lapse imaging was used to characterise defects in endothelial cell migration, lumen formation, blood flow, and membrane dynamics. To explore the mechanism of Ccm3 function, BioID was used to determine the potentialinteractome of Ccm3. Cellular Ccm3 resides mostly in the striatin interacting phosphatasesand kinase (STRIPAK) complex. We generated CRISPR/CAS9 mutants of these components of the STRIPAK complex, consisting of largely unstudiedgenes, to assess their role in vascular development and their relationship to Ccm3. CCM disease progression is strongly linked to RhoGTPase activity. We determined that unlike Ccm1/2, which act via Rho, Cdc42 is implicated in Ccm3 function: ccm3a/bKOembryos show aberrant Cdc42 activity and KO/KD of cdc42leads to transient cerebral haemorrhages in embryos. Altogether, we have established a model to study early changes in Ccm3 deficient endothelial cells and probe mechanisms of function of Ccm3 invivo.

Contributor: Mary Wallingford, Tufts Medical Center
Published January 10, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Ajit Muley, Columbia University Medical Center

 

Ajit stands with Drs. Ondine Cleaver and
William Sessa as he is presented with his Travel
Award at Vascular Biology 2018

Muley2In a recent interview with Mabruka Alfaidi of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Ajit shared some of his meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
The first time I learned about NAVBO was during my PhD training in India in 2006, when my mentor, professor Suvro Chatterjee, recommended that I attend International meetings. NAVBO was one of the best conferences to go to in the Vascular Biology field. I have become a regular member since then.

Tell us about the research you presented and your mentor?
My mentor is Dr. Carrie Shawber, she is an expert in NOTCH signaling in lymphatic vessels. When I joined the lab, we wanted to understand the molecular mechanism of the metalloprotease MMP14 in lymphatic vessel pathophysiology. We found that MMP14 regulates Lymphatic endothelial cell proliferation during the development of the lymphatic system. When we looked further into this unique phenomenon, we found that MMP14 regulates the activation of ERK signaling in vitro and in vivo to control cell proliferation. Furthermore, patients suffering from hyperplastic lymphatic malformation lost MMP14 expression from their lymphatic vessels, suggesting loss of LEC MMP14 expression may contribute to the pathological increase in proliferation observed in lymphatic malformations. Our on-going works in this area bring to light a key regulator of the Lymphatic malformation pathology and aims to identify novel therapeutic modality for this disease.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
The Lymphangiogensis session by far was my best favorite. I learnt a lot and was able to interact and received feedbacks.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
There were quite a few people I was looking forward to meeting and luckily NAVBO vascular biology meeting 2018 was very helpful for me. I met Dr. Sathish Srinivasan and Prof. Holger Gerhardt and was able to discuss common research interests at length. There were many other scientists from across the globe that I met during the conference as well.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
It helped me by covering part of the travel expense to NAVBO and helped me in attending NAVBO with my lab members.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
Research experience is definitely great at NAVBO. I personally gained a lot from NAVBO. I shared my data, hypothesis and got the prospect of how to plan and design critical experiments. Moreover, the one to one interaction between scientists for collaborations and networking is very helpful in building long lasting partnerships.

What future goals do you have for your work?
My goal for the current research project is to extend the understanding of MMP14 and its role in lymphatic development. The current work is a part of my mission to identify precision diagnostic and therapeutic targets for lymphatic pathologies and design tailored therapeutic modalities for the patients.

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
NAVBO meetings provide a platform for vascular biologists from different focus areas to come together and collaborate freely. Scientists and scholars get to enhance discussion and promote collaboration. This creates a platform to experience different perspectives including vascular biology, genetics and signaling.

Contributor: Mabruka Alfaidi, LSU Health Sciences Center
Published January 24, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Brian Sansbury, Harvard Medical School in the Brigham and Women's Hospital

 

Brian stands with Drs. Masanori Aikawa and
Bill Muller as he is presented with his Travel
Award at Vascular Biology 2018

SansburyBrianIn a recent interview with Mabruka Alfaidi of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Brian shared some of his meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I first learned about NAVBO in 2015 shortly after beginning my postdoc. I was looking for a vascular-focused meeting to share the findings of our latest study and NAVBO was recommended by my mentor. I presented at the pre-conference meeting for trainees and also presented a poster later in the meeting. It was a wonderful meeting and I was very excited to be able to attend again in 2018.

Tell us about the research you presented and your mentor?
I work in the lab of Dr. Matthew Spite in the Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School where we focus on better understanding the role of lipid mediators in the regulation of inflammation. My project looks specifically at how a class of lipid mediators, the resolvins, modulates tissue repair mechanisms in macrophages to enhance recovery from vascular injury.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
I would say that the evening poster sessions were my favorite parts of the meeting. Not only do you get to see a vast array of impressive studies, you get to meet and network with other attendees. These types of supportive and collegial interactions are the real draw to the meeting for me.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
Absolutely. NAVBO does an unbelievable job putting together a program that includes so many leaders of multiple fields that it's hard not to meet or see someone that has influenced your work. Even better, most of these individuals are true teachers and mentors and are always willing to give valuable feedback and advice to trainees.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
As a postdoc, you don't always have a lot of opportunity to present your work in a formal setting. So I jump at any chance that I get. I was lucky enough to travel to an international meeting earlier in the year to present to a non-vascular crowd. While this was a wonderful experience, it completely cleared out my travel funds for the year. Without this travel award I would not have had the resources to attend this meeting at all.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
There are several benefits that trainees gain from attending NAVBO in both the scientific and career development areas. Scientifically, you have the opportunity to hear about the cutting-edge work that is being done in vascular biology while also being able to present your own results and receive feedback from some of the most influential people in the field. Additionally, the structure of the meeting and its approachable size make it perfect for networking and meeting potential collaborators.

What future goals do you have for your work?
This project, specifically, is being finalized and submitted for publication soon. In the larger sense, our goals are to continue to advance our understanding of the role that lipid mediators and pro-resolution pathways play in chronic inflammatory diseases to inform the future development of novel therapeutics.

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
This year's program included a new Joint Session: Resolution of Inflammation which was a great opportunity to introduce resolution physiology to the vascular community. Continuing to support and highlight the importance of resolution of inflammation in vascular disease at this meeting would facilitate greater collaboration and progress in combating chronic inflammation in vascular disease.

Contributor: Mabruka Alfaidi, LSU Health Science Center
Published February 21, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Keith Strand, University of Colordo Anschutz Medical Campus

 

Keith Strand

KeithStrandIn a recent interview with Randa Breikaa of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Keith shared some of his meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I first learned about NAVBO in 2016 when I attended the 19th International Vascular Biology Meeting in Boston, MA. My previous research had been in neuroscience, so IVBM 2016 was a great opportunity to get exposure to the broader field of vascular biology outside of the research being done on campus at UC-Anschutz.

Tell us about the research you presented and your mentor?
My mentor is Dr. Mary Weiser-Evans, and I joined her lab as a graduate student in July 2016. Research in the Weiser-Evans lab focuses on understanding how SMCs contribute to pathological vascular remodeling in the context of diseases such as atherosclerosis and hypertension. Dr. Weiser-Evans has shown that PTEN plays an important role in maintaining SMC homeostasis and through both phosphatase dependent and independent effects. Additionally, the Weiser-Evans lab found that SMC-specific loss of PTEN exacerbates vascular remodeling in pre-clinical animal models and that reduced PTEN expression is associated with increased atherosclerotic lesion severity in human coronary vessels. However, our research also indicates that systemic PTEN upregulation reduces pathological vascular remodeling. These data suggest that PTEN upregulation could serve as a novel therapeutic approach to treat vascular disease.

The research that I presented at the Vascular Biology 2018 meeting was related to a high-throughput compound screen that we undertook using a PTEN promoter-reporter system to identify novel compounds that cause PTEN upregulation in SMCs. Our aim was to identify compounds that cause increased PTEN expression with the goal of developing them as novel therapeutic agents to treat vascular disease. In our screen, we tested roughly 3,400 compounds and narrowed our results down to identify 5 compounds that upregulate PTEN expression in SMCs. We are currently testing these compounds for efficacy in preventing remodeling using pre-clinical mouse models of vascular disease.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
My favorite events were the poster sessions. I enjoyed being able to present my findings, get feedback from the other meeting attendees and see the wide variety of research that other people were presenting in their posters.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
While I didn't meet any particular individual that directly influences my research at this meeting, I was able to take some of the ideas that were presented in talks or posters back to my lab and I think they might be valuable to inform our future research. The talks that I enjoyed the most were Peter Libby - The academic perspective: From bench discovery to clinical trials; Rakesh Jain - Reengineering the tumor microenvironment to improve cancer treatment: Bench to bedside; and Kenneth Walsh - Clonal hematopoiesis: Altered communication between the bone marrow and the vasculature.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
The travel award covered the cost of my airfare and ground transportation to the conference, so it really helped get me to the meeting and gave me a chance to present my research there. It took a huge chunk out of the total cost for attending the meeting, which made it much more feasible for me to come from Denver.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
I have attended two meetings organized by NAVBO, IVBM 2016 and Vascular Biology 2018. As a trainee, I appreciated the wide range of topics presented at both meetings. I thought the meetings were very valuable to help me keep up to date with current research in the field, and gain exposure to new ideas because of the amount of recently published, or unpublished data presented at both conferences.

What future goals do you have for your work?
My short term goal is to finish up the research that I presented at the conference and identify potentially clinically relevant compounds to treat vascular disease in people. After graduation, I want to continue research in the field of vascular biology as a post-doc and see where that takes me.

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
At a smaller level, the opportunity to earn travel awards offered by NAVBO goes a long way to help me attend these national/international meetings. In a broader sense, NAVBO provides great opportunities for networking with other PIs and presenting my research at conferences, which will hopefully help me with the next steps after graduation.

Contributor: Randa Breikaa, Nationwide Children's Hospital
Published February 7, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT


Amber Stratman, Washington University in St. Louis

 

Amber Stratman

AmberStratmanIn a recent interview with Mabruka Alfaidi of the NAVBO Membership Committee, Amber shared some of her meeting experiences.

How did you first learn about NAVBO?
I first learned about NAVBO as a graduate student when I was in George Davis's Lab at the University of Missouri. He encouraged me to attend to Vascular Biology meetings, and that's why I applied to the NAVBO Developmental Vascular Biology Meeting in 2008. I have attended regularly ever since.

Tell us about the research you presented and your mentor?
At the last NAVBO meeting, I presented a new project I have been working on which involves a zebrafish mutant identified in a forward genetic mutagenesis screen. The zebrafish mutant is genetically deficient in a dynein light intermediate chain, DYNC1LI1, leading to exacerbated blood vessel formation. We are currently investigating the underlying molecular mechanism behind this phenotype, in order to define this gene's role during vascular development and understand if there are any clinical implications. This work has been done under the mentorship of Dr. Brant Weinstein at NICHD, NIH. He's one of the pioneers of using zebrafish to study vascular biology, and I've learned a tremendous amount about zebrafish vascular imaging, mutagenesis screening, and developmental biology under his mentorship.

What was your favorite event at the meeting?
I really enjoyed the poster sessions. You get the chance to talk with people one on one and really dive in to how they are thinking about their research. For me, this sometimes stimulates new lines of thinking and can highlight alternative approaches to challenging experimental problems I am struggling with.

Did you meet any people at the meeting who influence your research?
I feel by going to NAVBO, I always meet the people who are influencing my research. It's organized in an intimate setting, therefore, you cannot help but meet the PIs in the field who are important to your work. One person who I got to speak and interact with during the lunch and learn session was Dr. Christer Betsholtz. During this session, the group got to learn more about his recent extensive single cell RNA-seq work.

What benefits did the travel award have for you?
It raises the possibility for me to attend other new meetings that I have not got the chance to attend in previous years.

What benefits can a trainee expect from attending NAVBO?
The biggest thing a trainee can benefit from by attending NAVBO, besides the cutting edge science and the opportunity to present their work, is the chance to network and meet other people who are doing a similar work in the field. Put a face with a name. Because, its such an interactive meeting, you really have the chance to get to know people.

What future goals do you have for your work?
I recently accepted an assistant professor position at Washington University in St Louis. My biggest future goal at the moment is to get transitioned to my new position, and start doing science driven by both my previous research background as well as new directions I hope to develop.

And, how can NAVBO help you achieve these goals?
NAVBO has been integral for me in achieving my goals. It has always been such a tremendously supportive Society. By coming to the meetings, I have been able to meet and connect with people from a broad, international background in the field. The meetings have given me a platform to share my science, put out new ideas, and receive critical feedback to refine my work moving forward.

Contributor: Mabruka Alfaidi, LSU Health Sciences Center
Published February 7, 2019 - NAVBO NewsBEAT