Faculty Feature Melissa Mavers

Melissa Michelle Mavers, MD, PhD, is a St. Louis native who wanted nothing more as a teenager than to leave St. Louis and explore the big wide world. She did just that, relocating to Florida to attend the University of Miami. She still recalls her father regretting taking her to see the campus — who wouldn’t want to go to college where the weather is nice and it looks like a resort?!? (Her family was happy for her but sad to see her go!) At UM, she majored in microbiology and immunology and fell in love with the latter. During this time, she further served her wanderlust by spending a semester in Mexico City at the Universidad Iberoamericana and solidifying her Spanish. She also loves dancing in all forms and spent two years in Miami learning Salsa!

During college, Mavers also discovered her love for the lab. She spent two summers at home working in John Atkinson’s lab here at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, learning all about the complement system. In Miami, she completed her honors thesis research studying viral-host protein interactions. She couldn’t stay away from St. Louis for long, though, as she returned for the MD/PhD program at Saint Louis University. This was a great move, as she met her future husband on the first day of medical school orientation! She earned her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Harris Perlman, demonstrating a novel role for p21 in suppressing macrophage-mediated inflammation in arthritis and other mouse models. Shockingly, despite one incident where an old (flawed?) beaker full of nasty thioglycolate exploded on a hot plate and another in which she measured mouse ankles for two hours in a hood in which someone had forgotten to turn off the CO2, she escaped from this time unscathed and completed the rest of medical school. (She still secretly loves the Dr.2 M3 monogrammed towels her stepmom sewed for her when she finished the MD/PhD program!)

After residency in Pediatrics at UCLA, Mavers went to Stanford for Hematology and Oncology fellowship. When she rotated on the Stem Cell Transplant service, she realized she was “among my people.” As such, she joined the lab of Dr. Robert Negrin, studying immune regulation of graft-versus-host disease with particular focus on regulatory T cells and invariant natural killer T cells. She continues to build on this focus here at WashU where she joined the faculty in August (again, feeling the pull of St. Louis to come back home)! Her lab uses transcriptomic, proteomic and functional analyses of immune regulatory cells to enhance understanding of the role of these cells in GVHD while working to develop a cellular therapy for this horrible disease.

Outside of work, Mavers enjoys spending time with her family — husband, Delee, daughter, Lily (7) and son, Asher (4). She especially enjoys planning elaborate family Halloween costumes, as demonstrated in Fig 1A-D. Now that they have a much bigger yard than in California, her kids are begging for a dog, and she is rethinking all of her life choices. Feel free to convince her why dogs are amazing (it’s going to take a lot of convincing!). Her children will thank you.

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