Gabrielle Huizinga

The Collision of Meta-Inflammation and Respiratory Infection
University of Michigan
Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?

Hello! My name is Gabrielle Huizinga and I am a rising 2nd year Immunology PhD student. My project is focusing on the complications of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the clearance of respiratory bacterial infections. It is well known that patients who are obese and/or have type 2 diabetes have significantly higher rates of morbidity and mortality during respiratory infections, however, the mechanisms behind this are still unclear. I am still in the very beginning phase of my project, but it appears that there may be some differences in how obesity impacts clearance of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, so I will be investigating that. Additionally, with the coronavirus pandemic, we are investigating the role of obesity in coronavirus clearance.

What does a typical day or week look like for you?

One of the difficult things about doing a PhD during a pandemic is that most days are different. My labs are on a “shift” schedule, meaning that we can either come in during the morning or the afternoon. Typically I am on the afternoon shift. In the morning I catch up on reading, any data analysis that I can do from home, or study for my upcoming preliminary exam. In the afternoon, I head into lab to perform various mouse infection assays. I try to take evenings off to hang out with my dog, boyfriend, and roommates!

What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?
I am lucky enough to be co-mentored by two fabulous PIs. One of my PIs has extensive microbiology and respiratory infection knowledge. The other is a pediatric endocrinologist with lots of insight into the metabolism side of my project. Together we all make a great team and I’m so excited to work with both of them!

What’s been the most challenging part of it?
The most challenging part of my PhD has been figuring out time management, especially during quarantine. During quarantine I wrote two grants and was also working on a review paper. It was very easy to want to stay in bed all day, however, I was able to find other students also working on papers and grants, so we were able to set up “virtual libraries” to write together.

Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?
I would hope that at that time I would be finishing up a post-doctoral fellowship and applying for faculty positions in Immunology or Microbiology.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?
Reach out to faculty that you’d like to work with before you apply to see if they will be taking students! You don’t want to get to an interview or onto campus and see that you don’t really want to work with anyone. You can also reach out to the program administrator with this question as well.

What makes your university a good place to study?

The Immunology Graduate Program at the University of Michigan has extremely diverse faculty and new faculty are coming in all the time! It is super easy to find collaborators and everyone has been extremely supportive.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I volunteer at a local humane society as a dog walker and in their puppy intake department! My boyfriend and I also love discovering local breweries and wineries.

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