Researcher of the Month: Dr. Julie Schulthess
How did you get interested in your scientific work? I have always been interested in understanding how things work and why they work that way. During my undergraduate studies, I discovered basic immunology and I just got caught in it.
Later during my master’s degree, I learned mucosal immunology which focuses on understanding the relationship between a host (like us) and the outside environment. I thought the questions raised in that field were really fascinating.
Q: What are you working on now?
After my PhD, I thought it would be very interesting to generate scientific knowledge that can be directly applied to men. So I started working in the human mucosal immunology field.
It is really interesting to realize that our intestine is a crossroad between food from our alimentation, the 1014 commensal bacteria which colonize it, and our immune and intestinal cells. In this very busy environment, a key challenge for our cells is to be able to distinguish between food antigens and beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, in order to maintain intestinal homeostasis. Breakdown of this synergistic equilibrium is thought to underlie the inflammatory bowel diseases.
So my interest lies in understanding how metabolites coming from the fermentation of dietary fibers by commensal bacteria can shape the immune responses in our intestine.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about working in science?
I really like working in an international environment. Doing scientific research means hard work, a lot of excitement, and sometimes some deception. I enjoy the perpetual challenge of the hypothesis made by creating the most appropriate set of experiments to bring answers to the questions asked. It also means that our work at some point might help to understand diseases and create the knowledge of tomorrow.