Kristin Kallapur (née Griffiths) tells the IITM Communications Team about her experience of IITM, gives an update on her career and offers her advice to current and prospective IITM students.
Kristin completed her undergraduate degree at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. She received a combined BA/BSc degree, majoring in Linguistics in her BA, and Immunology and Microbiology in her BSc. She finished by completing an Honours year, which in Australia is similar to a year of Masters by research. “My project was describing a novel dendritic cell subset in mouse spleen,” she explained.
Prior to that, Kristin had also received two summer research scholarships. As she told us: “The first was at the ANU working on expressing components of the Plasmodium falciparum pantothenate biosynthesis pathway. The second was at the Common Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, where I was studying the stress response of Medicago truncatula to aphid infestation.” She added: “I also took a research-based unit as part of my course work. Throughout my undergrad degree, I worked as a lab technician in order to familiarise myself with how a lab operates.”
Kristin graduated from Oxford in 2012 having completed her DPhil under the supervision of Helen McShane and Helen Fletcher. Before selecting her DPhil project, Kristin undertook rotations in the labs of Andrew McMichael, Graham Ogg and Helen McShane. Her DPhil research focused on investigating the role of interleukin (IL)-17 in vaccine-induced protection against tuberculosis (TB).
Kristin described her DPhil project: “I was working with both the currently-approved vaccine, BCG, as well as MVA85A, the novel TB vaccine developed by Prof. Helen McShane and the Jenner Institute. I found that delivering the vaccine mucosally instead of parenterally improved vaccine efficacy, and this efficacy could be further enhanced through induction of IL-17 by co-administration of cholera toxin at the time of vaccination.”
Immediately after completing her DPhil, Kristin took up a post-doc position at Washington University in St. Louis in the laboratory of Shabaana Khader. She explained: “Here, I was continuing my work on TB vaccine design, trying to understand why it has so far been near impossible to develop a TB vaccine that confers sterilising immunity against infection.” Since then, Kristin has recently started as a Senior Scientific Researcher at Genentech in South San Francisco, where she is developing animal models for lung disease.
“Coming from a well-recognised programme run at a well-known university had benefits in getting recognition in both my previous and my current position”
Talking about the advantages of IITM, Kristin said: “In general, coming from a well-recognised programme run at a well-known university had benefits in getting recognition in both my previous and my current position. In terms of skills specific to IITM, the opportunity to prepare scientific presentations (either talks or posters) annually at the IITM [symposium] helped me to fine-tune my presentation skills, which is always useful when going through the interview process and sharing your work with you peers.”
She continued: “I also found the talks given by the PIs prior to choosing our rotations in our first year were invaluable in terms of exposing me to the research going on at the University. This has helped to maintain a general awareness of research not directly related to my field.”
“Although I didn’t do this particularly well during my DPhil, the inclusion of bench fees in the IITM scholarship has the potential to teach students the importance of funds management early on during their research career, which will help when managing larger budgets in the future.”
“I would enter the programme with a relatively open mind with regard to the type of lab you’d like to join”
Kristin had this advice for first year students specifically: “I would enter the programme with a relatively open mind with regard to the type of lab you’d like to join so that you can get the most out of each rotation. You might be surprised by what catches your interest in the end.”
Kristin advises students to take advantage of networking opportunities: “Throughout the four years, I would take advantage of the exposure you can get both during your rotations, as well as through your connections to other IITM students, and DPhil students on other programmes. This is a unique environment that will allow you to build your knowledge of broader fields, and maintain connections after graduation.”
She also highlighted several useful training opportunities: “The GRAD School programme – either onsite or external – was a useful experience for me. It was a full week of reflection on my non-science skills and areas of weakness. You should also explore other extra training that’s offered with regard to personal and career development. Finally, when it came to writing my thesis, the most valuable course I took through IT services was learning to handle large documents. This took away the worry on the technical side when it came to assembling all the chapters and the figures.” The Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (MSDTC) also offer a multitude of free courses and training for DPhil students.
During her undergraduate degree, Kristin undertook projects across a diverse range of fields, which she said taught her early on that her interests (and skills) lie in the response of the immune system to disease states. “This helped me, first of all, to pick the IITM programme based on the areas of interests of the PIs on the programme, and second of all, to pick the rotation labs that suited my background and my interests,” she said.
“Expose yourself to as much of the research world as you can during your undergrad”
Kristin’s advice for prospective IITM students was: “Based on my own experience, I would say expose yourself to as much of the research world as you can during your undergrad. This could be through exploring part-time jobs or research-based projects either at your University or through companies. Laboratory classes during undergrad can only teach you so much, and immersion in a lab offers a very different experience.”
She went on: “My work as a lab technician was a great help, as it exposed me to how a lab functions. I had a very good supervisor, who had me involved in everything from cleaning the lab, taking care of cell lines, and helping with ordering. Doing the short-term research projects allowed me to develop experience in designing and carrying out experiments, and processing the results. I also learned a variety of lab techniques, which meant I had shallower learning curve going into my DPhil. I was also lucky enough to be involved in writing and preparing scientific publications and presentations, which helped prepare me for tasks I’d be faced with during my DPhil.”
Publications from IITM:
S. Lunardi, N. B. Jamieson, S. Y. Lim, K. L. Griffiths, M. Carvalho-Gaspar, O. Al-Assar, S. Yameen, R. C. Carter, C. J. McKay, G. Spoletini, S. D’Ugo, M. A. Silva, O. J. Sansom, K.-P. Janssen, R. J. Muschel, and T. B. Brunner, “IP-10/CXCL10 induction in human pancreatic cancer stroma influences lymphocytes recruitment and correlates with poor survival,” Oncotarget, vol. 5, no. 22, pp. 11064–11080, Nov. 2014.
I. Satti, J. Meyer, S. A. Harris, Z.-R. Manjaly Thomas, K. Griffiths, R. D. Antrobus, R. Rowland, R. L. Ramon, M. Smith, S. Sheehan, H. Bettinson, and H. McShane, “Safety and immunogenicity of a candidate tuberculosis vaccine MVA85A delivered by aerosol in BCG-vaccinated healthy adults: a phase 1, double-blind, randomised controlled trial.,” Lancet Infect Dis, vol. 14, no. 10, pp. 939–946, Oct. 2014.
H. C. Poyntz, E. Stylianou, K. L. Griffiths, L. Marsay, A. M. Checkley, and H. McShane, “Non-tuberculous mycobacteria have diverse effects on BCG efficacy against Mycobacterium tuberculosis(),” Tuberculosis (Edinb), vol. 94, no. 3, pp. 226–237, May 2014.
K. L. Griffiths, E. Stylianou, H. C. Poyntz, G. J. Betts, H. A. Fletcher, and H. McShane, “Cholera Toxin Enhances Vaccine-Induced Protection against Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Challenge in Mice,” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, p. e78312, Oct. 2013.
L. Marsay, M. Matsumiya, R. Tanner, H. Poyntz, K. L. Griffiths, E. Stylianou, P. D. Marsh, A. Williams, S. Sharpe, H. Fletcher, and H. McShane, “Mycobacterial growth inhibition in murine splenocytes as a surrogate for protection against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb).,” Tuberculosis (Edinb), vol. 93, no. 5, pp. 551–557, Sep. 2013.
M. Matsumiya, E. Stylianou, K. Griffiths, Z. Lang, J. Meyer, S. A. Harris, R. Rowland, A. M. Minassian, A. A. Pathan, H. Fletcher, and H. McShane, “Roles for Treg Expansion and HMGB1 Signaling through the TLR1-2-6 Axis in Determining the Magnitude of the Antigen-Specific Immune Response to MVA85A,” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 7, p. e67922, Jul. 2013.
J. Meyer, S. A. Harris, I. Satti, I. D. Poulton, H. C. Poyntz, R. Tanner, R. Rowland, K. L. Griffiths, H. A. Fletcher, and H. McShane, “Comparing the safety and immunogenicity of a candidate TB vaccine MVA85A administered by intramuscular and intradermal delivery.,” Vaccine, vol. 31, no. 7, pp. 1026–1033, Feb. 2013.
A. M. Minassian, R. Rowland, N. E. R. Beveridge, I. D. Poulton, I. Satti, S. Harris, H. Poyntz, M. Hamill, K. Griffiths, C. R. Sander, D. R. Ambrozak, D. A. Price, B. J. Hill, J. P. Casazza, D. C. Douek, R. A. Koup, M. Roederer, A. Winston, J. Ross, J. Sherrard, G. Rooney, N. Williams, A. M. Lawrie, H. A. Fletcher, A. A. Pathan, and H. McShane, “A Phase I study evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of MVA85A, a candidate TB vaccine, in HIV-infected adults,” BMJ Open, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. e000223–e000223, Nov. 2011.
K. L. Griffiths, A. A. Pathan, A. M. Minassian, C. R. Sander, N. E. R. Beveridge, A. V. S. Hill, H. A. Fletcher, and H. McShane, “Th1/Th17 Cell Induction and Corresponding Reduction in ATP Consumption following Vaccination with the Novel Mycobacterium tuberculosis Vaccine MVA85A,” PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 8, p. e23463, Aug. 2011.