Lauren Ehrlich, PhD

  • Recruited to: The University of Texas at Austin
  • Recruited from: Stanford University
  • Award: First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member

Dr. Lauren Ehrlich will join the Molecular Genetics & Microbiology faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in August 2010. Her lab will focus on elucidating interactions between thymocytes (immature T cells) and their surrounding microenvironment during normal and neoplastic T cell development, with the goal of identifying aberrant interactions that contribute to the progression of T cell lymphomas. T cell lymphomas and leukemias are common pediatric malignancies, for which treatments could be significantly improved to reduce toxicity and long-term side effects.

Dr. Ehrlich’s interest in immunology began early, as an intern at The University of Texas at M.D. Anderson’s summer research program, and was firmly cemented by her undergraduate coursework and research on gamma-delta T cells in Dr. Adrian Hayday’s laboratory at Yale University. Following her bachelor’s degree, Dr. Ehrlich was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral fellowship to support her graduate studies in Dr. Mark Davis’ laboratory at Stanford University. Using live-cell microscopy, she gained insights into the dynamic organization of signaling molecules at the interface of T cells and antigen presenting cells. Her work at Stanford was recognized with the Hugh McDevitt Prize for excellence in doctoral research. Dr. Ehrlich next joined the laboratory of Dr. Lewis Lanier, where her postdoctoral research on the role of NKG2D in activating human and mouse CD8 T cells was supported by a fellowship from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. She then returned to Stanford to join Dr. Irving Weissman’s laboratory, where she focused on multiple aspects of T cell development. Using in vivo cell transplantation studies, an approach championed by the Weissman lab, Dr. Ehrlich determined that a bone-marrow resident lymphoid-restricted progenitor was the major source of thymocyte progenitors in the mouse. Concurrently, Dr. Ehrlich collaborated with Dr. Rich Lewis at Stanford to use live-cell 2-photon microscopy to uncover signals within the thymic milieu that guide developing T cells to their proper locations within thymic tissue. Dr. Ehrlich’s postdoctoral research at Stanford was supported by a fellowship from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

At The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Ehrlich’s research program will build upon her knowledge of T cell signaling, thymocyte development, and live-cell imaging to study T cell lymphomas.  By coupling molecular biology approaches with live-cell imaging of thymocytes within intact thymic tissue, Dr. Ehrlich aims to identify cellular and molecular interactions that contribute to lymphoma development and progression. Ultimately, these discoveries should enable the development oftargeted, low-toxicity therapeutics to significantly improve T-ALL treatment and disease outcomes.

Dr. Ehrlich is very enthusiastic to return to her home state and city to start her laboratory. She also looks forward to teaching immunology to The University of Texas undergraduates, and to mentoring graduate students and fellows in her lab. Lauren is accompanied to Austin by her husband Jason and their two young daughters.