2023 Departmental Newsletter

As 2023 draws to a close, I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season and a fulfilling new year. Great things have been happening in IIB and I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some our major accomplishments for the year.

We started 2023 by planning the reorganization of the department of Immunology into the department of Integrative Immunobiology, a new academic unit with an expanded research scope under the umbrella of immunobiology and a renewed focus on applied immunology. We held out first departmental retreat at Wrighstville Beach, NC and the new department was formally approved by the provost in May of 2023. This fall we met for an off site retreat at Post 6 in Chapel Hill where we heard directly from faculty about science ongoing in their labs and participated in team building activities to further strengthen our community.

The department welcomed new faculty, with Carolyn Coyne and Stacy Horner joining as primary faculty, and David Tobin, Jorn Coers, and Georgia Tomaras joining as co-primary affiliates. In addition, in partnership with the Duke Cancer Institute, we recruited Jose Conejo-Garcia to strengthen our presence in human tumor immunology and cellular therapeutics. Our faculty continue to run robust research programs supported by over $11 million from federal agencies, industry, and foundations, including a “transformational” award from the Mathers Foundation to Saskia Hemmers. We congratulated Mari Shinohara for her promotion to full professor and Ed Miao for his appointment as a Chancellor Distinguished Professor and his election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation. This year we also bid farewell to Tom Tedder, the founding Chair of the department of Immunology, who retired after 30 years of service at Duke. We wish him well as he spends time with his family in Colorado.

In 2023, we welcomed eight new graduate students into our NIH-funded Immunology Graduate Training Program, one of the largest classes since the program was established. This year we had a record number of applications to our graduate program, so we expect another full class in 2024. Our graduate students and postdoctoral trainees continue to be the intellectual engine of our department. This year, five students received their PhDs and several PhD students in IIB labs were awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Burroughs Welcome Fund.

We look forward to a significant expansion of our faculty ranks in the coming years with an ongoing search for new assistant professors. We interviewed 15 outstanding candidates, and will host several of them on campus early in 2024 for the second round of interviews. We expect to add two new faculty to IIB by the second half of next year.

I very much look forward to 2024 as we grow the department and further cement our interactions with other units across campus who share our interest in understanding and manipulating the immune system to further human health.

With all the best wishes for the new year,

Raphael Valdivia