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Student Q&A: Mallory Filipp, Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences

Mallory Filipp

Mallory Filipp, student in the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences (DGP), studies sterile inflammation, a type of chronic inflammation that occurs in the absence of infection, in the laboratory of  Edward Thorp, PhD, associate professor of Pathology in the Division of Experimental Pathology.

Read a Q&A with Filipp below.


Where is your hometown?

I grew up in Fitchburg, WI, a small town just outside of Madison.

What are your research interests?

My research interests center around the functioning of the innate immune system, particularly in the setting of sterile inflammation (a type of inflammation in the absence of infection). Medical science is beginning to understand how many diseases are associated with chronic aseptic inflammation, and further understanding and characterizing the derangements causing chronic inflammation is a scientific passion of mine.

More recently I’ve come to appreciate the impact of chronic inflammation on cardiac function. Another cardinal aspect of my research interest is my desire to apply basic science to clinical problems in medicine. To better prepare myself for this kind of work, I concurrently enrolled in a Master of Science in Biostatistics here at Feinberg, to complement my doctoral degree.

What exciting projects are you working on?

My thesis project in the Thorp lab is at the intersection of immunology and cardiology, where I am studying how macrophage metabolism is associated with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). Little is known about the role of innate immunity during HFpEF, so my thesis began with characterizing cardiac immune cells in a new animal model. I found that macrophages had significant changes in lipid metabolism during HFpEF and that modulating macrophage lipid uptake could reduce monocyte recruitment to the myocardium and improve cardiac function. I’ve linked this reduction in recruitment to macrophage regulation of splenic hematopoiesis and am currently teasing out the mechanism behind how splenic macrophage lipid metabolism may be fueling the development and progression of HFpEF. My preliminary data and scholarly accomplishments have resulted in an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award.

In collaboration with Dr. Sanjiv Shah, I am also looking at clinical metabolomics data to try and identify novel metabolic biomarkers of HFpEF outcomes, including how metabolites might be associated with specific inflammatory pathways.

What attracted you to your program?

It was clear from the beginning that the DGP was a highly collaborative interdisciplinary program. Having the opportunity to rotate through several labs was tremendously helpful in finding the best fit for me in many respects: mentorship, scientific area of study and lab environment. I also found the campus to be very lively and the students welcoming and friendly.

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

DGP’s integration within an academic medical center has allowed me to really understand the clinical perspective of my research. On top of regularly discussing with expert clinicians, I had the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in the clinic through the Kids-Inspired Innovation in Careers and Science (KIICS) Program at Lurie Children’s Hospital. These experiences have allowed me to improve the clinical relevance of my studies and really exemplified the impact my research will have.

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

Faculty are always willing to talk science or give advice and often treat you as a peer rather than a trainee. This culture was evident even when I was interviewing with the DGP and has remained consistent throughout my time here. I’ve enjoyed the many joint lab meetings and impromptu collaborative discussions with members across many departments in Feinberg. I’ve also really appreciated how supportive my mentors have been of me concurrently pursuing an MS in Biostatistics, even when it takes time away from the lab.

What do you do in your free time?

My family holidays growing up were always centered on my Italian grandmother’s cooking, from fresh pasta to intricate desserts. I’ve grown to appreciate the art of cooking and love to recreate her recipes! I also used to play competitive soccer and keep that hobby going by playing in a recreational league in Chicago. In the past few years, I have taken full advantage of Lake Michigan during the summers by biking on the lakefront path and sailing on the weekends!

What are your plans for after graduation?

First and foremost, spend some time traveling! Afterwards, I plan to be involved in clinical trial design and implementation, where I can use my expertise to help better our understanding of the immune response in human disease. My interests remain broad regarding opportunities in various sectors, such as government, industry, and academic hospitals.