Bio-X SIGF Graduate Student Fellow

Awarded in 2019
Home Department: Immunology, Medicine
Faculty Advisors: Catherine Blish (Medicine - Infectious Diseases), Lacramioara Bintu (Bioengineering), and Paul Wender (Chemistry)

Research Title: Single-Cell Characterization and Control of Epigenetic Regulation during Human Natural Killer Cell Response to Influenza

Research Description: Despite modern vaccination strategies, influenza remains capable of causing significant morbidity. Natural killer (NK) cells are heterogeneous innate lymphocytes that respond to influenza-infected cells and strongly influence disease outcome. Recent evidence suggestsPhoto of graduate student Aaron Wilk in a wet lab, wearing glasses and a lab coat and gloves, using a long pipetter in a fume hood. that epigenetic reconfiguration regulates the strength and specificity of NK cell responses. However, NK cell epigenomics in the context of influenza remains unexplored. Here, Aaron will combine several single-cell technologies in the fields of cell biology, epigenomic engineering, and drug delivery to better understand the mechanisms by which NK cells respond to influenza infection, and possibly manipulate NK cells to induce influenza-specific memory. This approach will improve our understanding of epigenetic mechanisms in NK-mediated control of influenza and enable development of NK cell-based therapeutics.


Aaron is completing his last two years of medical school at Stanford and hopes to continue on his path to become a physician-scientist working at the intersection of infectious disease immunology and bioinformatics.