UMN researcher named to prestigious HHMI program focused on bold investigation

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David Masopust, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He is also a member of the Center for Immunology and the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.
Thursday, September 22, 2016

David Masopust, Ph.D., has been named to the inaugural class of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Scholars, recognizing his dedication to creative and innovative solutions in science.

Masopust is an associate professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He is also a member of the Center for Immunology and the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

His work focuses on immunosurveillance, focusing on how resident memory T cells control infections and cancer. With this appointment, Masopust hopes to resolve major gaps in our understanding of T cell migration and how it relates to immunological memory and protection.

“It is very exciting,” Masopust said. “This program allows me the freedom to pursue some of the most provocative leads in my field, which are pursuits that can be difficult to fund when they defy convention.”

The Faculty Scholars program is a new initiative led by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Simons Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program targets early career researchers, with 4-10 years of experience running their own labs, to provide flexible funding resources allowing the Faculty Scholars to take chances and follow interesting and creative research leads. 84 scholars were selected for this inaugural class, out of more than 1,400 applicants. Read more about the Faculty Scholars Program.

“This recognition of Dave’s work puts him in a class with some of the most elite investigators in the nation,” said Tucker LeBien, Ph.D., vice dean for research in the Medical School and associate vice president for research in the Academic Health Center. “His fundamental research on immune cell function has changed the field in incredible ways and this program will only provide more opportunity for discovery.”

Masopust’s recent work includes a new model of mice, nicknamed “dirty mice,” designed to better mimic the adult human immune system, as well as investigations into how the immune system patrols the body for detection of infected and cancerous cells.

“Whether it is running with riskier projects or conducting a higher number of inquiries on a shoestring budget, freeing up some time from searching for safe and narrow grants will only benefit scientific investigation,” said Masopust. “Because this program supports me as a scientist, and my vision, instead of a specific scientific program, I have the freedom to try and fail and also, hopefully, succeed and make big strides in this area of study.”