Lab Members

Patrick Burkett, MD, PhD

I’m originally from Indiana, but moved around a lot as a kid, spending time in Michigan, Sierra Leone, and Kansas. I eventually ended up in Minnesota where I did my undergraduate work at Carleton College, earning a B.A. in biology in 1999. I moved on to the University of Chicago to pursue both an MD and PhD. There I worked with Averil Ma, studying the role of IL-15 and IL-15Rα in CD8 T cell memory, earning my PhD in Immunology in 2004, and my MD three years later. I came to Boston in 2007, where I completed clinical training in internal medicine and pulmonary and critical care medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I joined the Kuchroo lab in 2011 and have been working on mechanisms that regulate T cell mediated tissue inflammation. I became an Instructor at HMS in 2014 and my current research focus has been examining the role of Tregs in regulating lung inflammation, while also attending on the lung transplant service at BWH.

Zuojia Chen, PhD

I received my BS degree of Biotechonolgy from Shanghai Fudan University in 2008. I performed my PhD study at the Institute Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences under the supervision of Prof. Bin Li. In my project I focused on studying the regulation of FOXP3 stability and function in regulatory T cells under inflammation. After receiving my doctoral degree in 2014, I joined Dr. Vijay Kuchroo’s lab to begin my postdoctoral research.

Madhumita Das, PhD

My research focus has been studying the signaling circuitry that impacts cross-talk between cell types regulating disease progression. I have a PhD in Molecular Biology with research experience ranging from gene regulation in prokaryotic organism in my PhD thesis to cutting-edge research in mouse models of human diseases as a post-doctoral research scientist. As a research fellow and as an Instructor at UMASS Medical School and Tufts Medical Center, I was involved in research in signal transduction pertaining to inflammation and cancer. My overall research goal has been to understand the role of cell signaling in basic cellular processes such as proliferation, senescence, apoptosis and inflammation, and to elucidate how these fundamental processes are regulated in different cell types in different models of immune-related diseases and cancer. I have been involved in elucidating the molecular pathways and mechanistic themes linking different pathologies and participating in scientific hypotheses development. A large part of my work is involved in studying the cross-talk between immune cells and other cell types in driving inflammatory diseases and cancer. My long-term goal as a scientist at Harvard is to delve deep into addressing the role of key players in the immunotherapy landscape with particular emphasis on the role of immune checkpoint molecules in autoimmunity and cancer. I am keen on unravelling the fascinating biology of immune-regulatory molecules and contributing to novel translational research initiatives in cancer and autoimmune diseases immunotherapy to promote drug discovery initiatives.

Nasim Kassam, MSc

I joined the Kuchroo Lab in 2003 and currently manage the Hybridoma facility. With over 30 years experience in Antibody Science, my notable career in research commenced in mid-70s at the University of Alberta, Edmonton Canada on “Tolerance” related biological science research before shifting gears to the private sector, working with various biotech companies making antibodies. These companies included Chembiomed Ltd. (Edmonton, Canada) Summa Biomedical of Canada (Edmonton AB), Seargen Inc. (Hopkinton, MA), LeukoSite Inc. (Boston, MA), and Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Boston, MA). I am a native of Tanzania, East Africa and earned my Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biology with Honors from the University of Pune in India. During my distinguished career I have had the opportunity to represent Seargen in Oslo-Norway, receive training at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and assist in training personnel to make hybridomas at the Arthritis Centre Sydney-Australia. My move to Massachusetts in 1985 was only supposed to be a two year spell however, I met with success making antibodies to chemokine and chemokine receptors and my subsequent antibody work lead to clinical trials for Rheumatoid Arthritis which all made it too exciting to leave and my stay here became permanent.

Jessica Kilpatrick

I am a technical research assistant working closely with Dr. Sheng Xiao and Dr. Melissa Yeung in the Kuchroo Lab. As a Massachusetts native, I developed a great respect for the Boston hospitals and universities alike for their excellence in academics, which encouraged me to be a part of the scientific community. I graduated from Stonehill College in 2013 earning bachelor’s degrees in biology and environmental studies. I have eclectic set of interests within the biology field, and am fascinated by the complexity of living organisms from microscopic cell structure to macroscopic population dynamics. As an undergraduate, I carried out an independent research project with Dr. Heather Bleakley studying social behavior of guppies and wrote an honors thesis “Adequacy of the mirror test in measuring antipredator behavior of guppies (Poecilia reticulata)” on my findings. I also spent a semester abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia participating in fieldwork located in rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. I am currently interested in the adaptive immune system and underlying mechanisms driving autoimmunity of B Cells in neurologic diseases. I plan on gaining a variety of laboratory techniques and skills to strengthen my experience and knowledge for graduate school, so that my research can ultimately contribute to helping save lives.

Deneen Kozoriz

I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from the University of Regina in 1992. I began my career at the Saskatchewan Health Department clinical laboratory acquiring experience in the Virology, Immunology and Flow Cytometry departments. After gaining a special interest in flow cytometry, I moved to Boston in 2003 to further my career in the field of flow cytometry focusing on cell sorting. I currently manage the Center for Neurologic Diseases’ Flow Cytometry Core Facility. I focus my research interests on the current and changing flow cytometry applications in order to assist researchers in their experiments. I am also an active member of the Boston High Speed Cell-Sorting Users Group.

Asaf Madi, PhD

I am a computational immunologist with a high tolerance for chaos. My background is in B-cell and T-cell repertoires, using Antigen chip technology and TCR sequencing, both in health and disease. I completed my PhD and subsequently a postdoctoral fellowship at Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel in the labs of Eshel Ben-Jacob, Irun R. Cohen and Nir Friedman. My current research involves understanding the molecular mechanisms of T cell differentiation, activation, and inhibition using high throughput methods such as single cell RNAseq, Chipseq and CyTOF. More specifically, I am investigating the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for the development of Type 1 regulatory (Tr1) T cells; Tr1 cells maintain peripheral tolerance and contribute to the prevention of autoimmune inflammation. Another field of research that has captured my interest is cancer immunology, where I use the same exact tools to understand T cells in the context of the tumor microenvironment, to identify triggers that might lead to T cell exhaustion, to discover novel co-inhibitory targets and their potential transcriptional regulators, and to further understand how all of this changes in the face of immunotherapy.

Mathias Pawlak, PhD

I joined the Kuchroo lab in 2012 as a postdoctoral fellow. I am interested in translating basic research into more clinically relevant applications in particular in regard to autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn’s disease. The Kuchroo lab, with its broad spectrum of expertise is a perfect place to do so.

Samantha Riesenfeld, PhD

Originally from Salt Lake City, UT, Sam holds a BA in mathematics and computer science from Harvard University and a PhD in theoretical computer science from UC Berkeley. Through interactions with colleagues in molecular biology, she became interested in pursuing interdisciplinary, biological questions. She joined the Pollard lab at the Gladstone Institutes, UCSF, as a postdoctoral fellow, to devise evolutionary methods for analyzing metagenomic data. A partnership with a zebrafish lab led her to work on developmental gene regulation. In 2013, she came to the Regev lab at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to design computational and systems biology approaches to model mammalian gene regulatory networks, with applications in immune cell biology. Soon afterward, she also joined the Kuchroo lab, where her research focuses on the differentiation, plasticity, and pathogenicity of T cells and other cells that are both required for immune defense and implicated in inflammatory diseases.

Markus Schramm, MD

I grew up in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany’s sunniest city, only a few miles away from the Swiss and French border. In 2013 I graduated as an M.D. from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany and spent the ensuing two years in the Internal Medicine and Rheumatology Residency Program at the University Hospital of Munich. As part of my experimental doctoral M.D. thesis I had the opportunity to study Interleukin-22-producing T lymphocytes and their role in human autoimmune arthritis as a graduate student in the laboratory of Prof. Hendrik Schulze-Koops. During daily medical routine and as a physician involved in clinical trials I was then able to witness the impact experimental achievements can finally have on each patient’s life. Fascinated by the discoveries and rapid developments in the field of T cell immunology within recent years I joined the Kuchroo Lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in fall 2015. A fellowship by the German Research Foundation will allow me to further elucidate the pathogenesis of common autoimmune diseases and discover possible new therapeutic targets.

Meromit Singer, PhD

I am interested in the development and application of algorithmic and statistical tools to reconstruct cell circuits governing dynamic immune responses. Following my passion for computational biology, I completed my BSc in Computer Science and Biology at Tel-Aviv University, and my PhD in Computer Science at UC Berkeley. During my PhD, I was advised by Prof. Lior Pachter and worked on the development of algorithms for the comparative analysis of DNA methylation across different species and genomic regions. Expanding these comparative analyses techniques to the systems-level and the immune system, I am currently working on identifying critical pathways that regulate T cell dysfunction in the tumor environment as a postdoc in the labs of Vijay Kuchroo and Aviv Regev. My aim is to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of the T cell dysfunctional state within tumors and to enable perturbations of this dysfunctional state, enhancing efficacy, by the identification of critical pathways.

Waradon Sungnak

I was born and grew up in Nakhon Nayok, a small town in central Thailand. After finishing high school there, I received a scholarship to pursue my Bachelor degree in the US. I attended Columbia University in New York, where I discovered my interest in immunology during my sophomore year. I gained research experience in Dr. Sankar Ghosh’s research laboratory at Columbia and am now a graduate student in the Immunology Program at Harvard. I joined the Kuchroo lab in 2013. I am currently working on follicular helper T cells and T cell-mediated regulation of antibody responses. Besides science, I enjoy traveling, scuba diving, and visiting art museums.

Chao Wang, PhD

I was born and raised in the garden city of China with rice and fresh water fish aplenty. Then the world came to me when I joined one of the United World Colleges as I came of age amidst 87 nationalities in a little village south of Vancouver Island in Canada. Music and the Pacific Ocean are what kept me as an individual and an integral part of the little “United Nations”. I owe my fascination in science to Jamie Scott, my undergraduate honor’s thesis supervisor, who introduced me to antibody engineering in HIV research. I continued to explore chronic viral infections from other aspects of the immune system for my Ph.D. thesis with Tania Watts. I joined the Kuchroo lab to broaden my understanding of the immune system and its role in chronic inflammation and have since been immersed in a different world of fascinating science.

Chuan Wu, MD, PhD

I finished my medical school in 2002 from Shanghai Jiaotong University, after which I found myself developing an interest in basic research. I started to focus on a career studying immunology and matrix biology as a graduate student at Münster Univeristy, Germany. For my thesis dissertation, I investigated the T cell interaction with the blood-brain barrier (BBB) during its migration. Through my PhD studies, I became proficient in establishing inflammatory disease models, in vivo and in vitro migration system. In order to gain more molecular understanding of diseases in central nervous system and autoimmunity, I chose Dr. Vijay Kuchroo’s lab in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School for my postdoctoral work in 2010. I have been immersed in a lab and a department where research is clinically relevant to a number of CNS diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS and other less common central nervous system (CNS) disorders. While in the Kuchroo lab, my focus was more on the molecular regulation during the T cell differentiation in the autoimmune disorders.

Junrong Xia

I have more than 20 years of laboratory experience with the HMS community (1993-2004 in Dr. Michael Carroll lab; 2004-2011 in Dr. Klaus Rajewsky lab; 2012-present in Dr. Vijay Kuchroo lab). My research skills and interests include genotyping mice with PCR and FACSCalibur, labeling DNA probe with 32P-dCTP for hybridization by Southern blot membranes, and culturing tumor cells. My personal interests include cooking with my husband and daughter, catching up with family over social media, and traveling.

Sheng Xiao, PhD

I received my bachelors degree in Biochemistry from Xiamen University in China. After that, I was accepted as a research assistant in the National Laboratory of Medical Molecular Biology in Beijing, China where I worked on T cells and cell death in Dr. Dexian Zheng’s laboratory. It is under the guidance of Dr. Zheng that I became interested in the biology of T cells. I then joined Dr. Shyr-Te Ju’s laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine as a Ph. D student to obtain further academic training. I worked on the roles of Fas/FasL and IL-2 in normal and autoimmune T cell responses during the development of lupus and colitis. From Dr. Ju, I learned how to think, find and solve scientific problems. Working with Dr. Ju, I became more interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms of T cell responses under various normal and pathological conditions. After I received my PhD, I joined Dr. Vijay K. Kuchroo’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow to pursue a higher training. Currently, I’m mainly studying the regulatory mechanisms of T cell responses and the role of Tim-1 in immune regulation and autoimmune diseases.

Alexandra Schnell

I was born and raised in Kelkheim, a small town in Germany. After finishing high school, I moved to Tuebingen, Germany, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology. I pursued my education with a Masters in Molecular Biosciences- Major “Cancer biology” at the German Cancer Research Center and Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg. Throughout the course of my studies I developed a strong interest for the immune system and its regulation in the context of autoimmunity and tolerance. I therefore joined the Harvard Immunology PhD program in 2015. Since October 2016, I am a member of the Kuchroo lab where I am studying intestinal mucosa- adaptive immune system interactions in the context of extra-intestinal autoimmune disease.

Melissa Yeung, MD

I am a transplant nephrologist at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. I grew up in Toronto, Canada where I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. I obtained my M.D. from the University of Ottawa, before moving to the U.S. to complete internal medicine residency (at Maine Medical Center) and nephrology fellowship (at Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital). My research focuses on identifying pathways to promote immune tolerance towards a transplanted organ. Organ transplantation is a life-saving procedure for patients with end-organ damage. Yet, despite the tremendous advances since the first kidney transplant (performed over 50 years ago here at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital), long-term function of transplanted organs remains disappointing. This is because current immunosuppressive drug regimens are unable to prevent chronic rejection. Furthermore, these anti-rejection strategies require life-long drug treatment, placing our patients at higher risk of serious side-effects including infections, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Interestingly, “tolerant” patients (those who have functioning grafts despite being off of all immunosuppressive treatment) exhibit a “B cell signature”, suggesting that graft tolerance may be mediated by a regulatory B cell population. I joined the Kuchroo lab to investigate the mechanisms by which these regulatory B cells maintain graft tolerance.

Huiyuan Zhang

I was born and raised in Yantai, a city near the east coast of China. I got my undergraduate degree from China Agricultural University, where I had the good fortune to work with Dr. Bin Wang on biomarker study for the prediction and stratification of human type 1 diabetes. Later research experience at Dr. Wanli Liu’s lab at Tsinghua University further boosted my interest in Immunolgy and encouraged me to further pursue a PhD in this field. In the fall of 2014, I joined Dr. Kuchroo’s lab as a graduate student in Immunology Program of Harvard Medical School. I have a keen interest in how dysfunction and misregulation of T cells contribute to diseases such as autoimmunity and cancer, and my current focus is on regulatory T cells.