Postdoc Spotlight - Dr. Heather Buechel

December, 2016

Questions:

 

In what field was your PhD? How did you arrive at this specialization?

 

My PhD is officially in pharmacology, though my research work focused on sleep, stress and cognition in a rodent model of aging. I arrived at this specialization by spending many, many, many, hours in a dark room, watching rats swim in a pool and an equal many, many, many, hours in front of a computer analyzing rat brain waves!

 

What is your current research project?

 

My current research focuses on the role natural killer T cells play in the chronic inflammation seen in the adipose tissue in metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Some data supports a pro-inflammatory role, and some supports an anti-inflammatory role. Parsing this out, and also determining the molecules that modulate the pro- versus anti-inflammatory phenotypes will help us to modulate these cells to, hopefully, improve disease outcomes.

 

 

Tell us about a great experience or opportunity you’ve had in the past year.

 

This past year has been filled with great opportunities and experiences! I got a spot on our departmental T32, focusing on autoimmunity, with great feedback from the T32 committee on my project.  I also had the opportunity to teach biology lab to Pitt undergrads. It was a great experience in terms of comfort with public speaking and re-acquainting myself with some science basics.

 

What do you hope the next step in your career path will be?

 

This is an excellent question! Anyone have a crystal ball? Right now I am weighing the flexibility of moving forward in academia with the risk/rewards of industry, along with trying to balance life with a kindergartener and parents. When I find the right puzzle piece, I suppose I will know.

 

If not a scientist, what would you be?

 

Maybe an artist? Maybe a truck driver? Maybe some other kind of scientist. There are a lot of possibilities!