Postdoc Spotlight - Dr. Heather Buechel

December, 2016



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!