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Inflammation Lab @ UNC
(Pullen Lab)

Mast Cells CD117Greetings!  We study inflammation, and right now we mainly focus on:

  • Trained Immunity (a.k.a. "innate memory").
  • Characterizing and then targeting the immune system cells affecting recovery from traumatic skeletal muscle injury.
  • The effects of exercise during recovery from cancer, specifically changes in cancer-induced immunosuppression and T cell polarization.
  • The the molecular effects of plant-derived compounds (e.g., certain alkaloids and cannabinoids) potentially used for anti-inflammatory prophylaxis.
  • Trefoil factors (TFFs) in inflammatory processes, including cancer.  We are working on discovering their receptors and how they influence the biology of mast cells, myeloid-derived suppressor cells, and cancer cells.

Research on each of these projects intersects with the others, as we approach knowledge on inflammation from three broader areas: (1) Mast Cell Biology; (2) Inflammatory Modulation; (3) Immune Cell Dynamics in Cancer 

Prospective Graduate Students.

M.S. (thesis track) and Ph.D. applications are continually reviewed by faculty of the School of Biological Sciences.  However, there are currently no funded graduate student openings in the Inflammation Lab (updated September 7, 2018).


Undergraduate Opportunities

We welcome new undergraduate researchers through several paths:

  1. If you are interested in bench lab research, the Inflammation Lab accepts students who will commit at least two semesters of scheduled research through BIO 422.  This requires contractual agreement of responsibilities, and a research product turned in each semester.
  2. If you are willing to commit to one semester then you are welcome to assist us with literature research for that semester, and you can get some practice with lab techniques through BIO 422.  The expected finished product will be a polished review and annotated bibliography on a topic of interest to the lab.
  3. Longer contractual agreements through programs like McNair and Honors (Upper Division).

Some preparation that will help you with doing research in the Inflammation Lab:

  • Completing courses like BIO 110 (Principles of Biology), 210 (Cell Biology), and 220 (Genetics).  For non-biology majors the A&P course series (BIO 245 & 246) is useful.
  • Some familiarity with and curiosity for learning about the immune system.
  • Taking advanced cell & molecular biology courses while working in the lab is recommended.  Refer to the catalog.


Other Researchers

There are a few other categories of people who are occasionally interested:

  • Postdocs: Dr. Pullen does not actively seek funding for postdocs.  Some of our collaborative research in SES is amenable to postdoctoral training, but if you are looking for a postdoc you need to have your own source of funding.  We are happy to discuss potential collaboration in developing a grant application - be aware that this can require a year or more of advance planning.  The other thing to keep in mind is what you're looking for.  At UNC we embrace a teacher-scholar model; if you don't know what that means, then we are not a good fit. If you are looking for a career in an R1 academic environment, then you need to be seeking a postdoc at an R1 university or other major institute whose sole mission is (or nearly is) research activity.
  • Professional Visiting Scientists: Throughout the year we welcome non-local research collaborators with shared interests.  
  • Future Scientists and/or Community Members: We welcome supervised visits to the lab, with preference for summers.  Contact Dr. Pullen for scheduling.  Unfortunately, at this time we cannot accept longer term high school researchers due to the risks and regulations associated with some of the experiments we conduct.