The many roads to LJI

A letter from LJI President and CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.
Photo portrait of LJI Chief Operating Officer Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.
LJI President and CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.

A while back, a member of my lab—a brilliant postdoc named Heather Callaway—described herself as an “academic nomad.” This is a good way to describe a scientist’s first decade or so in the field. Researchers often travel from institute to institute to earn their degrees and complete postdoctoral training, fellowships, internships, and a series of early career positions.

The nomadic life can be tough on families and leave scientists feeling like they are always just “settling in.”

Yet with each move comes a chance to work with new mentors, take on new projects, and learn new skills. I’ve enjoyed international research stays myself, and at home, have worked with many international colleagues who enriched both our research programs and our world view by sharing their cultures, their perspectives, and their scientific insights.

In this issue of Immune Matters, we focus on the new skills and ideas international scientists bring to La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI). [Read the article “Academic Nomads”]

LJI is a global destination for scientists for many reasons. LJI scientists are preparing for the next pandemic by investigating animal-borne diseases. Zoonotic diseases, which spread between humans and animals, are a particular interest of mine and the focus of my lab. We’ve all seen what happens when a pathogen “spills over” into humans.

We’re also eager to share new insights into Alzheimer’s disease—a neurodegenerative disorder not often thought of as immune-related. I also hope you’ll enjoy a new profile of LJI Associate Professor Ferhat Ay, Ph.D. Ferhat’s work to piece together the three-dimensional architecture of genomes is the kind of research that will rewrite textbooks.

LJI’s physical footprint may seem small. We’re one building in the La Jolla biotech landscape. Still, LJI’s intellectual mark is weighty in the world of biomedical research. Scientists here routinely publish in top scientific journals and lead global collaborations. We’ve become a gathering place for the academic nomads who want to share their expertise in a place that values diversity.

Today when I travel, I’m proud to say that LJI is my home. I hope LJI supporters like yourself can help us embrace the brilliant people who find their way here.

Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.

President and CEO
La Jolla Institute for Immunology