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Meet Catherine Brennan

Cell Biologist Studies Immune Defense Mechanisms

Nov. 12, 2013

Before joining campus this fall, cell biologist Catherine Brennan spent the last four years conducting research to learn more about why the immune systems of some individuals infected with HIV are able to fend off progression to AIDS — so that no drug treatment is necessary.

Through her collaborative study as an assistant research scientist at the AIDS Institute at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, researchers identified a specific immune activation event that occurs in the first months of infection that may result in the long-term, slower progression of the disease. As the study's lead author, Brennan's work was published as the cover article in the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Virology .

Brennan, an assistant professor of biological science whose research interests include cell biology and genetics, is now studying how immune systems recognize and destroy bacteria in drosophila, a fruit fly often used for genetic study.

"While working with HIV, I gained expertise in working with human immune cells, and it will be interesting to look at the genes we identify in drosophila, and see if they also work the same way in human white blood cells," she said.

Brennan is teaching an introductory biology course this semester, and plans to teach more advanced courses on cell biology and immunology.

"I'm very excited to be teaching at CSUF, and next spring semester, I also look forward to having students join my laboratory, where we can learn together about the genes that enable white blood cells to kill bacteria," Brennan added.

Brennan, who lives in Los Angeles, grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Williams College in Massachusetts. At USC, she earned her master's in marine biology — studying squid that have luminous bacteria — and her doctorate in molecular biology.

Tags:  Academics & Research