Boothroyd Lab In the Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Mission

The lab's “mission” is to learn as much as we can about Toxoplasma biology and pathogenesis using the most powerful tools available to us ... and to enjoy the process! Our ultimate hope (and already it's worked out this way with a few projects) is to learn something that others can then develop into a product or procedure that proves useful in alleviating suffering from the serious diseases this and related parasites cause. We work on almost all aspects of Toxoplasma biology ranging from questions about how it can invade virtually any vertebrate cell it encounters (truly!) through to how infection sometimes is asymptomatic while other times it is fatal.

Toxoplasma

Over the years, we have found that by looking at the parasite “holistically” we find clues to solving one problem in the results that come from a project that, at least at the outset, we thought was completely unrelated. A perfect example of this is the discovery that injected rhoptry kinases are key to virulence. This result was dependent on four simultaneous efforts in the lab: 1) identification of the complete rhoptry proteome; 2) mapping the genes responsible for virulence; 3) finding Toxoplasma proteins that modulate host gene expression; and 4) identification of Toxoplasma loci that are under greatest evolutionary pressure for change. Of course, we started and remain heavily dependent on a great many collaborators and consider ourselves fortunate to work on a system where collegiality and cooperation are the rule not the exception!

The typical breakdown of the group is three to five graduate students working on their Ph.D., six to eight post-docs (including, typically, at least one M.D.), a couple of undergrads and medical students and one or two research associates. The three key support staff are: one tissue culture and media assistant, one administrative assistant and one glass washer. We couldn’t do any of this without them!

Of course, we need money to do what we do and the lab currently has three major NIH grants. Most of the people in the lab also have their own or institutional fellowship support for at least a part of their time here. The lab meets weekly, with an in depth presentation by one person on his/her recent results and future plans each week (2 hours).

On the social side, people in the lab enjoy indoor and outdoor sports. Our department softball team has actually WON THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP some years with a heavy representation from our lab although the injury rate about equals the number of runs [why is it always the pipetting hand that gets broken?!?]. And, who would want to play a dumb game like softball, anyway - some of us think hockey is far safer and far more fun. Snow-shoeing and skiing are also popular favorites (the mountains are ~3.5 hours away with more snow than you can imagine) and biking is a year-round favorite in the hills around us (road and mountain biking; we never get snow around here except on the very tops of the highest hills and then maybe just once or twice a winter). To sum up, I think it's fair to say that we try to do our work (and our play) with gusto and, most of all, we try to enjoy the process!

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