Meet the Researcher
Jasmine Chebli, MSc
PhD candidate at Inst. Neuroscience and Physiology
What is your research focus? My work focuses on amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its involvement in neuronal development. We generated zebrafish mutants for all app genes and, in addition to look into those mutants, my research focuses on sensory neurons and gangliogenesis. On top of that, I look into ciliogenesis and fluid movement in the brain. We know APP to be at the genesis of amyloid plaques, hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, but the limits of its physiological functions are not drawn!
What current project are you excited about? Honestly, I am excited about all of my projects! But of course, some portions of them are more thrilling than others. I am very excited to test in vivo some of our hypothesis regarding receptors expression modulation with zebrafish larvae using temperature and chemicals and to see their behaviour. Also, I got to learn more about cilia (their formation and movement) and I find them completely amazing. Especially the ependymal cilia, beating in our brain and pushing CSF… I mean!
What do you like about working with zebrafish? What don’t you like about it? Apart from the obvious advantage of zebrafish, I like how easy they are to image (alive or fixed) and that they are fairly easy to genetically modify. When you look at a new mutant or mutation and observe your zebrafish, looking for all of their secrets they hold : the feeling is not the same as with cultured cells. Also very grateful that they don’t bite.
As for the downsides, well, not their biggest fan when they decide to jump from their tanks and the duplication of their genome is for sure waiting for you around the corner when you think you are done with your qPCRs.
Getting to know you better
Where were you born/where did you grow up? I am from the province of Québec in Canada (Bonjour! Hi!) and grew up in Lévis, a city along the Saint-Laurent river, with a view on the Frontenac Castle in Québec city.
When did you realize you wanted to have a career as a scientist? /What made you realize you wanted to have a career as a scientist? Before I started as a scientist, I was in the path to become a Science and Technology teacher, in high school. I always liked science in schools and wanted to be part of it somehow. However, the teaching-kids-part... I knew it was not for me, especially when the bell rang and I was outrunning the students to leave my classroom. Never had this feeling in research ;)
Where did you do your undergraduate studies? Did you do research with anyone? I did a BSc in Pharmacology at Université de Sherbrooke, which is about 2h from Lévis. Super program and with some perspective, I am sure grateful for all the cellular signalling courses, or at least for some of them! I was lucky enough that one PI, Louis Gendron, decided to take me for my first summer internship as a BSc student. Back then, my grades did not peak yet to provide me a scholarship. Still, Louis accepted me in his lab, with no experience, but heaps of motivation! Along with Hélène Beaudry, they gave me good example of mentorship and I am grateful still for that chance. I continued in his lab during my BSc to work on opioid receptors and did a small ricochet in Australia at Macquarie University to work with Mark Connor on cannabinoid receptors. All three really helped me to launch my academic path.
Where did you do graduate studies and with whom? What did you work on? I did a MSc in Cellular and molecular physiology at Université de Montreal, but I wanted to do a PhD in neuroscience, outside Québec. So on my third Skype interview live from Montreal, I saw the faces of my future PI and supervisors (or half of their faces to be exact): Henrik Zetterberg and Alexandra Abramsson. They presented their work on Alzheimer’s disease and their studies on neurogenesis using zebrafish. And so four years ago, I left the island-of-the-best-bagels-in-the-world and, along with my two pairs of skis, flew to Göteborg, Sweden! One of the best bet I took, except for the skis.
Where did you do postdoctoral studies and with whom? What did you work on? Still on the climb of my PhD and I don’t plan to quit research, so stay tuned!
What other jobs have you had? Before the lab coat, there was the apron. I worked in a small chocolate and ice cream factory for 7 years during summer and part-time. Seven years may seem long but eh, we were allowed to eat everything we wanted.
Science and Careers
Share a turning point or defining moment in your science/career. I can’t say that there is one turning point or precis moment that was my Aha!-moment, especially not that time where I dropped my agarose gel on the floor (Hi Louis!). Instead, everyday is a sort of turning point. I always saw Science (with a capital S) as an inaccessible world that only the top of the elites had the right to enter. That you needed to know everything about everything, all before day1 and that knowledge outscored creativity. To realize that scientific research needs a full diversity of researchers, that’s my everyday-turning point.
If you could be present for any "Eureka" moment in history (i.e. the moment some scientific discovery was made), which moment would you choose? Why? You know that feeling when you test a hypothesis or on the edge to discover something and then you have the first look in the microscope objective? I would for sure would have liked to be next to Rosalind Franklin and her student when she look into the objective. However, to be in the room along all the amazing scientists, all over the world, when they either manage to sequence the SARS-Cov-2, or had the ¨OK¨ for the clinical phase for their potential vaccine or when Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci realized their vaccine was safe and could end the COVID19 pandemic. All of those are ¨Eureka¨ moments that I would have loved to witness.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in science/research? Go ahead! Be humble and ambitious, always. And regardless if you do a BSc internship, MSc or else, please start writing your Mat&Met now!
Where do you think the next scientific breakthroughs are going to occur? Somehow, we feel closer than ever to a cure or a milestone for Alzheimer’s disease. I also wish for enormous breakthroughs in the current pandemics of COVID19, climate change and hunger.
What is the most challenging part about your science or obtaining your career goals? On a personal level, it is to trust my results as much as I trust others’. On a wider level, to distinguish literature stubbornness from strong and proven hypothesis: do all the paths we follow in research are only drawn by accumulations of facts and do all hypothesis deserve their amount of the spotlight?
Outside of work
What do you enjoy doing outside of work/lab? Outside the lab, I love to be outside! Climbing, ski touring, biking, mountain biking, running, trail running, climbing (yes again!), and camping... you see the picture.
What are you reading right now (not including research papers)? Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Le peuple rieur by Serge Bouchard and Klättring I Göteborg med omjed by Tomasz Ratajczak.
Name a favorite song or musical piece. Everything done by Patrick Watson, but if I have to choose, then The Great Escape.
Favorite place you have lived or visited? Norway, everywhere (outside) in Norway!
What alternative career would you like to attempt if you could? Film and music video director; to be able to concretize my creativity and some of my visions.
Provide a quote that speaks to you. ¨Walk your walk¨, portion of a talk by Michelle Obama.
Huttenlocher group at University of Wisconsin-Madison
What is your research focus? I am interested in the role of innate immunity and immunometabolism in inflammation and wound healing. I am specifically interested in the role of neutrophil-macrophage interactions during wound responses and resolution of inflammation.
What current project are you excited about? Currently, I am working on two projects. One focuses on how physical interactions between macrophages and neutrophils may promote neutrophil resolution from the wound site. The other project involves testing if fluorescence lifetime imaging of metabolic coenzymes can be used to detect changes in macrophage metabolism during an inflammatory response; this is a collaborative effort with Dr. Melissa Skala an expert on optical metabolic imaging. We are excited about this project because it would be a technical advance for the field of immunometabolism; it would allow single cell-based assessment of intracellular metabolism of immune cells in live animals, in the context of their native microenvironment.
What do you like about working with zebrafish? What don’t you like about it? I love everything about zebrafish. The optical transparency of larval zebrafish is a great feature that makes live imaging of immune cell behavior very easy.
Getting to know you better
Where were you born/where did you grow up? I was born in Budapest, Hungary. I moved to the United States when I was 14.
When did you realize you wanted to have a career as a scientist?/What made you realize you wanted to have a career as a scientist? I knew by freshman year in high school that I wanted to be a researcher. Biology was my favorite subject in elementary school and beyond. I would like to mention by name my elementary school biology teacher, Angyal Ottilia. She is one of my favorite teachers, and she is near and dear to my heart to this day. She set me on the path to a career in science.
Where did you do your undergraduate studies? Did you do research with anyone? I did my undergraduate studies at St. John’s University in Queens, NY; I double majored in biology and philosophy. I did research on heparin sensors with Dr. Enju Wang in the chemistry department. I also studied DNA-dependent protein kinase in Drosophila with Drs. Rebekah Rasooly and Timothy Carter in the biology department.
Where did you do graduate studies and with whom? What did you work on? I did my graduate studies at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY, under the co-mentorship of Drs. Dianne Cox and Louis Hodgson. I developed FRET-based Rho GTPase biosensors to study macrophage functions.
.Where did you do postdoctoral studies and with whom? What did you work on? I am currently a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Anna Huttenlocher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; see current research.
What other jobs have you had? During college, I worked at a bagel shop and as a receptionist in a beauty salon. After college, I worked as a research technician for a while. I worked with Dr. Dennis Davidson and Ivana Vancurova in the NICU research lab at a children’s hospital. This is where I became interested in innate immunity and inflammation. I grew a lot here as a scientist, and they both encouraged me to go back to graduate school.
Science and Careers
Share a turning point or defining moment in your science/career. A turning point in my career was making the decision to go back to graduate school and to stay in academia.
If you could be present for any "Eureka" moment in history (i.e. the moment some scientific discovery was made), which moment would you choose? Why? I would love to be a fly on the wall in Elie Metchnikoff’s lab. I love that he was also a microscopist. It is fascinating that he did not need fancy confocal spinning disk microscopes to lay the foundations to leukocyte biology and the process of inflammation. I admire him for being a deep-thinking and insightful scientist.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in science/research? You have to know what drives you in science, and it should be passion; that’s what will get you through the difficult moments. If you still get excited about the results of your next experiment, then you are okay. It is also important to have a good support system (mentors, friends and family) and positive outlets to manage stress. I think one should also keep an open mind, staying open to learning and improving; there is always room for improvement. I always approach my interactions by thinking “What can I learn from this person?”, “What will this person teach me?”.
Where do you think the next scientific breakthroughs are going to occur? I think studying immune cells will continue to be an important source of insights that will shape our understanding of disease and how we treat them.
What is the most challenging part about your science or obtaining your career goals? Dealing with uncertainty - sticking with a project not knowing whether it will work out and knowing when to quit. The metabolic imaging project has been difficult. It took us 1.5 years just to figure out the microscope settings. I had to rely on the expertise of many people to make progress, and train in metabolism, lifetime imaging and quantitative analysis.
Outside of work
What do you enjoy doing outside of work/lab? Spending time with my pets, cooking and baking. I also love to spend time with my friends and family.
What are you reading right now (not including research papers)? I enjoy reading historical fiction. Currently, I’m reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.
Name a favorite song or musical piece. Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode.
Favorite place you have lived or visited? I lived in Vienna, Austria for 6 months. I really enjoyed walking around the city and visiting the castles in the area.
What alternative career would you like to attempt if you could? Something that involves taking care of animals; maybe a vet or animal nurse, or running an animal shelter.
Provide a quote that speaks to you. Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth. - Aristotle