2009

Snow Day

Today is a rarity; a snow day at UW-Madison. It comes in the middle of a busy week. We hosted a visitor from Israel on Monday and will be hosting another from Rochester on Friday. One of our collaborators from Sao Paulo, Brazil is also visiting until next Wednesday. The next few days will be very hectic.

I’m happy to announce that Michael Lauck has joined the laboratory as a PhD student. The total number of PhD students is unchanged, however, since Ben Bimber defended his PhD thesis successfully on Monday. Congratulations Ben!

Roger and Julie are missing the blizzard as they visit a collaborator in Connecticut. They are the lucky ones!

In other news, we will be presenting our research to the UW-Madison provost next week. Shelby and I gave presentations on our research in Sao Paulo, Brazil two weeks ago and there will likely be several more presentations within the next month. I’m also beginning to make serious arrangements for my upcoming trip to Uganda with Jim Sosman and Tom Friedrich. We are very excited to visit our collaborators in Rakai and Mbarara.

Fall Travel

The last few months have been exciting. We published a paper describing next-generation sequencing to understand macaque genetics in Nature Medicine this week. Though it is probably of interest only to afficianados, it did prompt UW-Madison and Roche to issue press releases. Congratulations to Roger and the rest of our genetics team!

There has been quite a lot of travel in the last few months. Shelby attended the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology meeting at Duke. She gave a talk on her ECI research project and met other CHAVI investigators.

Justin Greene, Ben Burwitz, and I flew to Paris for the AIDS Vaccine 2009 meeting three weeks ago. Justin and Ben both presented posters on their recent research. The following week, Shelby, Roger, Julie, Ben Bimber, and I went to Boston for the annual NHP AIDS symposium. Ben, Shelby, and Julie gave talks on their research, while Roger presented a poster. I sat on the sidelines like a lazy bum! That's not entirely true, as I had to give two presentations at a small pre-meeting.

The Boston meeting is not the end of our fall travel. Shelby and I will be going to the Human Vaccine Trials Network meeting in Seattle in mid-November. From there, we will be flying to Sao Paulo to visit our collaborator Dr. Kallas. I'll be home for about six weeks before venturing to Uganda with my clinical colleague Jim Sosman and research collaborator Tom Friedrich. While there, we will visit with the Rakai Health Sciences Program, see our friend Denis Nansera, and hopefully spend a little time in primate parks.

In non-travel related news, we are welcoming three rotating graduate students into our lab this semester. We are excited to meet with new students and share our lab with new students. Two rotations are complete and a third started this week. The semester is flying by.

We are also furiously writing papers. Shelby and Justin have papers under submission currently, while Julie and Ben Burwitz are writing papers that should be submitted by the end of the year. An exciting time in lab, but also one that is very busy.

It Starts Anew

So...here we are again. The end of summer is nearly upon us; I inadvertently drove into undergrad move-in preparations yesterday and realized that fall and winter are on the way. Undergrad move-in is a good time to shake the cobwebs off the website and give some updates on our lab. Gosh, where to begin...

First, if you are a graduate student interested in a rotation, please read by graduate student training philosophy and review my research program.

Last month we said goodbye to Claire O’Leary who left our lab to start grad school at the University of Pennsylvania. Ann Detmer left to become an Assistant Track coach at Cal (I imagine it is easy to be a track coach when your runners are motivated by a hungry Golden Bear). Kevin Campbell, a four year undergraduate in the lab, also left to start medical school at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The new faces from earlier this summer are already well integrated in the lab. All four undergraduates supported by ARRA money presented lab meetings on their projects and I have high hopes that most of this work will eventually be published. Claire’s work has already been submitted for publication.

Speaking of publications....we are still anxiously awaiting publication of a high profile manuscript in a journal-that-shall-remain-nameless-because-of-a-manuscript-embargo. In papers that I can talk about, Julie Karl published an MHC techniques paper in the creatively named journal ‘Methods’. Ben Bimber’s paper in collaboration with Ha Youn Lee from the University of Rochester was published in ‘Retrovirology’. In addition to the aforementioned papers in press and under submission, I expect Shelby and Justin to each submit a paper within the next few weeks, with more papers following soon thereafter from Ben Burwitz and Melisa Budde.

We’ve had a fairly relaxing summer in terms of presentations. Dawn Dudley presented her work in South Africa at the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention and then traveled to Uganda to meet with potential collaborators in Uganda. But I stayed home this summer - I think this is my first summer without business travel in more than five years! Perhaps this reclusive behavior isn’t by choice? After all, I did give a Neil Diamond themed presentation at Harvard University in April. The acknowledgements video (with help from our friends in the AIDS Vaccine Research Lab) pretty much says it all.

Let’s see...what else...we are very happy to report that an NIH R01 grant that I co-authored with Dr. Tom Friedrich scored very well and may be funded. If the grant is funded, we will explore the importance of broadly directed cellular immune responses in an animal model of HIV/AIDS. In addition, we received a favorable score for a renewal of an NIH R24 application to improve our understanding of macaque genetics. I also contributed to several ARRA applications that received promising evaluations. I think that now I am genuinely done writing grants for a while*.

*(at least 2 weeks)

Lastly, thanks to the miracle of Google Analytics, I still track who comes to visit my lab’s web page. A big thanks to Jen Lhost’s secret admirer, whose google search represents a whopping 12.28% of all traffic to the site in the last month. Also, like Styx, we’re (relatively) huge in Asia.




Craziness

The last few months have been incredibly busy. In addition to the challenges inherent in tracking my 9 month old son, the lab has experienced a surge of productivity that has kept everyone on their toes.

Two manuscripts describing our forays into next-gen DNA sequencing have been accepted for publication in really good journals. Justin Greene is preparing another manuscript for submission, hopefully in the next few weeks. And Julie Karl just published a review article in the journal Methods.

It has also been a busy time for grants. We submitted a renewal of our R24 grant that characterizes MHC genetics in different populations of macaques. We also submitted two grants to the Gates Foundation, one in collaboration with our friend Rodney Phillips, to study HIV evolution by deep sequencing. NIH has awarded us a supplement to support the salaries of five summer undergraduate students and we are awaiting word on several other supplements. Until a week ago, I felt like the grant madness would never cease!

Our nascent international HIV research program is starting to gain traction. We are working with our friends in Sao Paulo to sequence HIV from their patients. We are also working with Dr. Frank Graziano here at the University of Wisconsin to investigate HIV sequence diversity in Ugandan and Wisconsin HIV+ patients. Dawn Dudley will be representing the lab at the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment, and Prevention in Cape Town, South Africa in July. She will also be visiting prospective collaborators in Uganda during her time in Africa.

Lastly, it is the time of year when familiar faces leave us and new ones join the team. We will be saying goodbye to Kevin Campbell (med school), Ann Detmer (grad school), and Claire O’Leary in the coming weeks...but we will be saying ‘hi!’ to Ericka Becker (who will be replacing Ann). Hannah Creager and Benji Sudolcan are joining our undergraduate ranks.

Springtime!

In the two months since the last update of this webpage, we’ve been very busy. I spent a week in Washington DC in February, talking about our latest research at NCI and NIAID. I got back to Madison late on Friday night and then turned right around and flew down to Brazil on Monday. Shelby and I taught in a class for Brazilian scientists and clinicians before taking a week of vacation on the Sao Paulo coast. Dawn Dudley accompanied us to Brazil and spent time in research labs expanding the scope of our collaborations with our Brazilian counterparts. We are now eagerly awaiting a return visit from one of their senior scientists in May.

Other individuals in the lab have also been very busy. Ben Burwitz had a manuscript accepted for publication in the Journal of Virology. Congratulations, Ben!!

Also, I refreshed the pictures in the Lab Pictures page.

Phew!

The last two months have been incredibly hectic in the O’Connor Lab. As Shelby and I adjust to having four-month old Eli in our lives, the lab continues to forge ahead.

In December, we wrapped up our teaching for the fall semester. We were very happy with Pathology 210, our 100 student undergraduate course on HIV/AIDS, whose curriculum we completely revamped this year. The day after the final exam, Shelby and I left for the nonhuman primate models for AIDS conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The week passed in a blur. I gave a presentation at an NIH NIAID-sponsored satellite meeting on Systems Biology in NHP Research, co-chaired the conference session on Genetics, and watched as two years of planning culminated in a meeting that was well received by nearly all the 250 participants. We’re happy that the meeting we planned went so well, though we’re even more happy that we won’t have to plan another one for several more years!

After we returned from the meeting, we hosted two special visitors in the lab. Susan Gold, a pediatric nurse who does educational outreach in Kenya, met with the lab and toured our facilities. She visited with a colleague, Nicholas Makau, who manages the Nyumbani Villiage, a village for HIV/AIDS orphans. During our discussion, we learned that they have their own laboratory facilities. To see if our work can help their important work in any way, we are sending Simon and Jen from the lab to visit for several weeks in February. This month we were visited by Bob Bowers who told us about living with HIV since 1983. We are definitely lucky to have so many wonderful speakers interested in sharing their experiences with us.

We also had the good fortune of presenting our research to others. Ben Bimber and Julie Karl gave platform talks at the NHP AIDS meeting, while Shelby, Roger, Justin, Dawn, and Ben Burwitz presented posters on their research. Justin, Shelby, and I presented our work to the new UW-Madison Chancellor in late December. Shelby is giving a talk at the UW-Madison Global Health Symposium on our collaborative projects with researchers in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Next month I am going to Frederick, MD and Bethesda, MD to share our most recent research with scientists from NCI and NIAID. Lastly, in early March Shelby and I will be going to Sao Paulo, Brazil to teach in an HIV/AIDS course and spend time with our collaborator Esper Kallas.

In addition, we have been busy with papers and grants. Tom Friedrich and I submitted a grant to study cellular immune responses against HIV. Shelby and Dawn are preparing grants for the Early Career Investigator Scholar Award. Ben Burwitz is preparing a manuscript on his research that will hopefully be submitted next week, while a manuscript describing our MHC typing of macaques using next-generation DNA sequencing will hopefully be submitted tomorrow.

So it has been a busy time around here, but it certainly isn’t dull!