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In the Lab of Professor Chatterjea

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CATEGORY: Research/Academics
RELATED CONTENT: Civil Rights Radio Hour

Professor Chatterjea is preparing students to make tomorrow's breakthrough discoveries.

Who wouldn’t want to do original research on reducing pain or how T cells develop? In the immunology lab in Olin-Rice Science Center, Professor Devavani Chatterjea prepares students to make tomorrow’s breakthrough discoveries. They often get hooked on immunology while taking Chatterjea’s courses in cell biology and immunology, and can’t wait to dig deeper.

"I am as passionate about mentoring students in my research program as I am about contributing in a meaningful way to the field of immunology."

"I am as passionate about mentoring students in my research program as I am about contributing in a meaningful way to the field of immunology," says Chatterjea. "I love working with students as they begin their exploration of what it means to be a working scientist, as they learn how to ask good questions and grapple with them in the laboratory using good technique and an appropriately critical mind."

A native of Durgapur, India, Chatterjea attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and earned her PhD at Stanford. Before coming to Macalester, she was a research associate at Bay Area biotechnology firm Genentech, working on drug development for autoimmune diseases, so she brings industry, as well as academic, experience to her students.

mast cellThere are two principal veins of research in Chatterjea's lab: the role of semaphorins in the development of T-cells (important in immune response), and the role of mast cells in inflammatory pain, right. The immunology research lab, which she established in 2007, involves students from around the world, including so far Mac students from Argentina, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Italy, Jamaica, Nigeria, Sweden, and from around the United States as well. Chatterjea’s own broad connections also pay dividends for students seeking additional experience that builds on their on-campus research.

At the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Camilla Engblom '10, left, was able to study mast cells and atopic eczema (a painful skin condition) with the institute’s scientists, one of whom was a post-doctoral colleague of Chatterjea’s. A portion of that work was recently published in The Journal of Immunology.

Chatterjea herself continues collaborative research into T-cell precursors with former grad-school colleague Marcos Garcia-Ojeda, now professor at the University of California–Merced. Her student Zachary Schwager '10 spent the summer in California, working alongside Garcia-Ojeda.

Chatterjea recently applied for and received a National Science Foundation grant to establish a flow cytometry facility at Macalester. Flow cytometry is a powerful method of examining large populations of cells by suspending them in a stream of fluid and sending them in single file past a complex electronic detection apparatus. She also co-directs the college's new Community and Global Health public health concentration and says, "Macalester's urban location, excellent civic engagement and internship programs, and wide-ranging study away options provide valuable public health learning opportunities to our students."

"Research in Professor Chatterjea’s lab has been a wonderful opportunity to prepare for what comes after undergrad school," says Leonor Ano '10, who is writing an honors thesis on her semaphorins research. "This brings us closer to deciphering the intricate developmental trajectory of immune cells, while also helping me to understand what it means to be a researcher."



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