Faculty Feature Michelle Gill

Part of a military family, I spent my childhood in many places including Maine, Alaska, and Michigan. I remember the joy of playing in Alaska snow in the dark days of winter and building massive snow caves and tunnels in our yard in northern Michigan. My father’s last Air Force assignment moved our family from the Upper Peninsula to Louisiana during the summer heat wave of 1980, and our snow days were over. We traded snow shovels for air conditioning (which I’d previously never heard of!). My sister and I were misplaced teenagers with Northern accents, suddenly cast into a completely new environment with  >100 degree temperatures and people who said “Y’all” – it was an interesting transition! At that stage in our lives, we considered our move to the South to be temporary, but the comforts of not having to shovel snow altered my parents’ plans and they eventually retired in Louisiana, impacting the trajectory of my education and career.

Wanting to be near family, I obtained my undergraduate degree in Biology at LSU. My fascination with research was first piqued in a cell biology course, and this prompted me to enroll in LSU-Shreveport’s first MD, PhD class.  While completing my PhD in Cell Biology & Anatomy I was assigned to help teach an Immunology course and a new passion for studying the immune system developed. Although I initially planned to apply my immunology-based research interests to oncology, several life experiences and patient interactions during my pedatric residency at Arkansas Children’s Hospital altered my path, and I chose to pursue subspecialty training in pediatric infectious diseases instead. I completed my pediatric infectious diseases fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas under the mentorship of Dr. George McCracken. During this time, I also completed a postdoctoctoral research fellowship at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research in Dallas in the labs of Drs. Virginia Pascual and Jacques Banchereau. This was an especially exciting and impactful phase of my training, providing me with the foundation for future research investigating the role of human dendritic cells in human disease.

After my fellowship, I joined the faculty in Pediatrics at UT Southwestern and remained there until last summer. Initially focused on human dendritic cell responses to respiratory viruses, my research shifted to investigating the role of dendritic cells in asthma with a specific focus on the mechanisms through which atopy impacts antiviral responses in this disease. This shift in research direction was thanks to a wonderful collaboration with Dr. Becky Gruchalla in the Allergy & Immunology Division at UT Southwestern, and opened the door to many exciting opportunities for our lab to design and participate in mechanistic studies conducted by the NIAID Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC). My time at UT Southwestern also fueled my  passion for mentoring physician scientists and I was fortunate to serve as the Assistant Director for the MSTP progam there for several years. This past September, I joined the Pediatrics department here (Divisions of APM and ID),  where conducting research in pediatric pulmonary diseases and asthma represents my main focus.

Outside work (which I so enjoy!),  I love the outdoors – gardening, more gardening, walking my adorable dog, trips to Forrest Park – all make for a good day. I also cherish every moment with family and appreciate creative photography, a good laugh, and playing the piano (not that talented, but I enjoy it nonetheless). I am so happy to be here at Wash U and hope to get to know all of you soon.

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