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Congratulations Dr James Dooley!

A big round of congratulations to Dr James Dooley, who successfully defended his PhD yesterday.

James has been the senior scientist in the Translational Immunology laboratory since its foundation in 2009, and integral to our success. However James did not come to this status by the standard academic pathway, instead he developed his scientific skills through on-the-job experience in the laboratory of Prof Andrew Farr at the University of Washington (Seattle, US). Under the mentorship of Prof Farr, James developed his expertise in thymus biology, contributing to major breakthroughs in Treg biology and TSLP, and leading the effort on one of the key discoveries from the Farr laboratory - the discovery of the cervical thymus in 2006.

The 13 publications James had with Prof Farr, and a publication with Prof Page Lacy during his brief stay in Canada, convinced the KUL doctoral school that James could enter a PhD without previously going through a Bachelor's degree or Masters degree. James's staggering successes during his PhD validates this trust, and proves that there are multiple successful pathways to developing into a leading scientist.

Among James's key scientific successes during his PhD have been:

  • The identification of the role of microRNA in thymus biology, in particular the function of miR-29a in setting the threshold for thymic involution. Led to a first-author publication in Nature Immunology in 2012, and multiple productive collaborations on the role of miR-29a in other tissues.
  • The development of a high-throughput immune phenotyping platform for understanding variation in the immune system. The platform was published in Nature Immunology in 2016, and forms the basis for multiple clinical collaborations.
  • The discovery of intrinsic variation in the robustnes of beta cells in the pancreas, and how genetic and environmental factors can push the beta cells from a state of robust survival (granting resistance to diabetes) to fragile death or senescence (conferring susceptibility to diabetes). This work was published in Nature Genetics in 2016.

It addition to these key publications, James published many other papers as first, middle or last author, across a sweep of topics ranging from immunology to endocrinology and neuroscience, with an amazing 34 scientific publications during his PhD.

So our deepest congratulations to the well-earned PhD of Dr Dooley!  

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