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Lindsay Clegg: Michael A. Shanoff Award
[Young Investigator's Day] provides a great forum to spark wider engagement within the Hopkins community.
Mentor: Feilim MacGabhann
During my Ph.D., I worked with Dr. Feilim Mac Gabhann in the Institute for Computational Medicine to build cutting-edge, molecularly detailed, multiscale computational models of growth factor signaling in blood vessels. These models allow us to bridge from observations in cell culture systems, where we can make detailed measurements, into the context of human disease, to better understand what it is about the signaling that is ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’ in disease. We can use these computational models to evaluate potential therapies, identifying promising strategies and potential roadblocks to drug translation. This sort of integration across scales provides novel insight that could not be gained via experiment alone.
For my thesis, I studied how immobilization of VEGF, a key driver of blood vessel growth, leads to different signaling in cell culture experiments and different blood vessel architecture in mice and tumors, compared to VEGF found only in solution. The relative levels of VEGF isoforms that can be immobilized changes in disease. My models were able to explain how it is that these and other changes lead to altered signaling in ischemic disease (specifically, peripheral artery disease) and provide new information that will aid with design of biomaterials and antibodies to promote blood vessel growth and improved tissue perfusion in humans.
What does receiving this award mean to you?
In building computational models, one of the challenges we face is to make sure our models get the biology right and are clinically relevant (and useful!), as well as make sure that we do a good job of effectively communicating our quantitative results to biologists and clinicians. This award is a testament to the progress we’re making!
What contributed to your project's success?
Far and away, the biggest contributor to my project’s success is the people behind it. First and foremost, my adviser, Feilim Mac Gabhann, is a phenomenal scientist who excels at providing critical yet encouraging feedback and direction, as well as motivation and mentorship. He has been incredibly supportive of all my crazy schemes during grad school, and none of this would have come to fruition without him. Through the years, many other collaborators and peers have also contributed to my development as a scientist and to making my research as high quality and useful as possible.
Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?
I chose Johns Hopkins for a couple of reasons: (1) there were several different labs whose research I was excited about, so I was confident of finding a good match, (2) the opportunity to take courses with medical students and engage with the large research and clinical communities here, and (3) most importantly, at the end of the day it felt like a good fit for me, a place I could be happy and thrive.
What thoughts do you have about Young Investigator's Day itself?
It's important that we share our research accomplishments and challenges within the Hopkins community. It’s such a talented group, but yet so large that often we don’t even know all of the people here working on related topics. I think Young Investigators’ Day, in addition to celebrating the accomplishments of this community, provides a great forum to spark wider engagement within the Hopkins community. After all, it takes a village to raise a grad student, right?
What has been your best or most memorable experience while at Hopkins?
Within research, there’s no beating those ‘aha’ moments when you start to see something new and exciting come out of the results you’ve been puzzling over, and then check and double check those results, and start talking to everyone you can find to see if you might really have something. Here’s hoping those moments are far from over!
What are your plans over the next year or so?
After finishing my Ph.D. next month, I will be starting an industry postdoc with AstraZeneca in Gaithersburg, Md.
What are your hobbies or interests?
Outside the lab, I work with a local high school robotics team: FRC 1719, building a 150-pound robot in six weeks every year. It’s a fun way to keep my engineering skills honed, promote STEM education and inspiration in the community, and have a lot of fun with a great group of kids.