January 20, 2012 | by Jeremy Racine
The following is a profile on Dr. Zuoming Sun, Associate Professor, Department of Immunology - Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope.
The Helix: What question is your lab currently investigating?
Zuoming Sun: We are studying the TCR signals that instruct developing T cells to make life-and-death decisions. The molecule we identified, RORy, plays a critical role in making such decisions. We also are studying the signaling molecules that stimulate or inhibit T cell activation. Activation of T cells is a critical component of the host defense against pathogens; however, inappropriate activation of T cells can cause immunological diseases such as allergy and autoimmunity. Therefore, it is equally important for the immune system to prevent activation of T cells when it is not necessary and to eliminate self-reactive T cells. Manipulation of these signaling molecules will eventually lead to therapies to prevent abnormal T cell activation as observed in many autoimmune diseases.
TH: What is one aspect of City of Hope research you would like to highlight for graduate students?
ZS: City of Hope has a good combination of basic and translational research. For example, our lab, along with the other labs in the Department of Immunology, tries to understand the function of critical molecules in the regulation of the immune system. While we investigate the nature of these molecules, we find ways to utilize the molecules to treat diseases such as autoimmunity or cancer. The nature of the combination of basic and translational research requires good cooperation between scientists, which is significantly enhanced by the friendly and supportive research environments at City of Hope. No matter in which the area of research in which a student has interested, the student will find City of Hope is an excellent institute institution in which to work.
TH: What is your philosophy toward graduate and post-doctoral trainees?
ZS: Graduate and postdoctoral training is the start of a life-long learning experience, which requires the students to commit to learning. The most important training is to develop skills in critical thinking; i.e. learning to make appropriate choices in doing experiments, reading papers, discussing scientific questions and interacting with other scientists. Therefore, a student should go to a placean institution that has many choices and has offers the freedom to make those choices.