Zhou and Vella Awarded New R01

Congratulations to Dr. Beiyan Zhou and Dr. Anthony Vella on the award of their new R01 through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases entitled, “MiR-150 regulated adipose tissue B cells in obesity”. Dr. Zhou will serve as Communicating PI on this project which delineate a novel regulatory loop of small RNA molecules, microRNA, that can impose regulation on gene expression, on B cells that are found in adipose tissue during obesity. The collaborative team will test the idea that this circuit of regulation between microRNA and B cells in fat tissue is a major mechanism that controls the damaging inflammation. We postulate that understanding this process will lead to important therapeutic opportunities to treat metabolic disease that result from obesity.

Beiyan Zhou, Ph.D.
Dr. Anthony Vella

Hector Leonardo Aguila, Ph.D.

Dear colleagues,

Hector Leonardo Aguila, Ph.D.It is with great sadness that we note the passing of our dear friend and colleague Dr. Hector (Leonardo) Aguila on Monday, March 30, 2020. Leonardo fought courageously over the last couple years which inspired many of us. He is survived by his wife Daniza, his daughters Gabriela and Carolina, and son Nicolas.

Leonardo was born in Chile and studied biochemistry at the Universidad de Concepcion Chile prior to moving to the United States where he completed his Ph.D. at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine under the advisement of Dr. Matthew Scharf. Leonardo subsequently moved to Stanford Medical School to pursue his postdoctoral training with another scientific luminary, Dr. Irving Weissman, who is generally credited for establishing the field of hematopoiesis. Leonardo’s training in these two research hotbeds clearly steeped him with a strong sense of immunology history and poured the foundation for his love of hematopoiesis and development.

Nevertheless, after joining UConn Health as an assistant professor in 1997 he was always looking forward by reaching out and collaborating not only with other members of the immunology community, but also with numerous colleagues in other fields to establish multidisciplinary collaborations. Apart from his gregarious nature, Leonardo possessed many notable attributes that will be sorely missed. In particular, he greatly valued the process of scientific inquiry over end goals, and also valued community over self-achievement.

His selfless contributions to the UConn research community will be remembered by many of us not only through his scientific publications, but also with his thoughtful views on just about any research topic. These are perhaps best exemplified by his many collaborative contributions, the success of his students who have gone on to publish important papers and become faculty at other institutions, and his numerous service roles in the educational and administrative realms (a few examples are that he served as the Immunology Graduate Program Director, chaired the Graduate Program Committee, directed several graduate courses, was a member of the Ph.D. Admissions, M.D./Ph.D. Steering and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, and served on numerous NIH study sections).

Indeed, Leonardo was a friend and colleague to a great many of us, his numerous contributions to our research and educational missions spanned over two decades, and his absence will be greatly felt.

Anthony T. Vella, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Senior Associate Dean of Research Planning and Coordination
Boehringer Ingelheim Chair in Immunology
Department of Immunology

Adam Adler, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Immunology
Associate Director, Immunology Graduate Program

Welcome Jianbin Ruan, Ph.D.

Jianbin Ruan, Ph.D.
We welcome Dr. Jianbin Ruan as assistant professor to the Department of Immunology. Dr. Ruan’s research focuses on the structural and mechanistic study in the emerging field of cytoplasmic innate immune signaling, especially signal transduction pathways of pyroptosis and inflammation using multidisciplinary tools including cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, and other biochemical and biophysical methods.