This month’s Graduate Student Spotlight highlights Patrick Suess. A student in the Gomer Lab, Patrick studies the signalling function of inorganic polyphosphate in the eukaryote Dictyostelium and in human immune cells.
I was born in and grew up in Houston. During freshman year of high school, I really raised eyebrows with some outstanding play for the JV soccer team, however the success bred arrogance, and ultimately led to an underwhelming varsity career. I did my undergrad in Austin at St. Edward’s University where I graduated with a BS in biology. From there I went on to work as a research technician for two years at the Medical Center in Houston making monoclonal antibodies and recombinant proteins.
What inspired you to join Dr. Gomer’s lab?
One of the main draws towards the Gomer lab for me was the opportunity to work with multiple systems. On one side of the lab we study secreted molecules using a eukaryotic social amoeba, while on the other side we study secreted molecules of human immune cells and the roles they play in inflammatory responses and the progression of fibrotic diseases. Studies on one side of the lab have often stimulated interesting questions and provided answers to the other side of the lab. It has made for a fun and interesting experience.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I am studying how inorganic polyphosphate acts as an extracellular signaling molecule. I found that polyphosphate regulates both proliferation and development of the simple eukaryotic organism Dictyostelium discoideum. Using the knowledge we gained from Dictyostelium, we have now found that extracellular polyphosphate can effect differentiation and proliferation of human immune cells as well. This is important since polyphosphate is found in all cell types in nature, yet little is known in regards to its cellular function.
What motivates you to do your best?
The joy of the science. For me there is a big appeal in looking into the unknown, it leaves a lot of room for both rational and logical thinking as well as a certain amount of creativity and imagination. At the end of the day grad school can be stressful and demanding, but the opportunity to make a career out of indulging my curiosities is what motivates me to do my best.
Describe your most rewarding academic experience.
I’ve had the opportunity of working with some really talented undergrads throughout my tenure in the Gomer lab, many of which are now moving onto bigger and better things. Having seen them grow in confidence in the lab has been very rewarding.
What are your long-term goals?
I recently lined up a post-doc position at the University of Michigan, and am planning on graduating this upcoming May (I hope). During my post-doctoral studies, I plan on making the age-old decision between pursuing a career in academia or going into industry.