Dr. Hawa Racine Thiam is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Sarafan ChEM-H Institute Scholar at Stanford. Dr. Thiam’s long-term goal is to combine what we learn studying the cellular biophysics of immune cells, together with engineering principles to manipulate, predict and re-design innate immune cells and improve human health.
Dr. Thiam earned her high school diploma in Senegal, her B.S in Physics and M.S in Physics for Biological systems from Paris Diderot University, then her Ph. D in Biophysics working with Dr. Matthieu Piel at Institut Curie where she developed microfabricated devices and discovered a novel function of branched actin networks in squeezing the nucleus during immune cell migration under confinement. She then joined Dr. Clare Waterman’s lab at the NIH where she combined high-resolution microscopy and other quantitative cell biology approaches to reveal the cellular mechanism of NETosis, opening new avenues for understanding this extreme cell behavior.
The Thiam Lab research program aims at understanding the Cellular Biophysical mechanisms that allow innate immune cells to accomplish their functions in the physically challenging in vivo environment. At first, the lab will focus on understanding how neutrophils initiate and complete NETosis; an intriguing process during which immune cells release their DNA to the extracellular environment in response to danger signals. While NETs can trap pathogens and limit infection, several evidence converge toward a detrimental effect of NETosis in inflammation related disease such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, or Covid-19. The Thiam lab will use a combination of high-resolution microscopy, mathematical modelling, Cell Biology, and Immunology, to investigate the decision-making process as well as the forces generation and transmission mechanisms that drive such an extreme cell behavior.