Payam Zarin, Immunology
Student’s Name: Payam Zarin
PhD Thesis: The Role of Environmental Cues in gd T cell Lineage Choice and Functional Programming
Supervisor: Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker
Chair and Professor, Department of Immunology
Senior Scientist, Sunnybrook Research Institute
The thymic landscape provides an array of spatially and temporally controlled cues that guide the development of functionally distinct immune cells. These “T cells” serve as an important arm of the immune system, playing the role of hero or villain through an impressive functional repertoire that includes tissue repair and pathogen clearance, as well as promoting autoimmunity and carcinogenesis.
Payam’s thesis focused on understanding how T cells are educated by environmental cues found in the thymus. To this end, he developed novel co-culture systems, which allowed for modulating the signals downstream of the Notch, cytokine and T cell receptors. This work provides a framework for how these signals dictate lineage choice between ab and gd T cells, and, furthermore, can integrate to play a role in programming gd T cell effector function.
Payam’s graduate research has led to several publications and awards including the Miller Prize in Immunology. Outside of the lab, Payam cofounded a start-up company in the food allergy space. His efforts with AllergenFree have led to the development of patent-pending technology that has gained recognition in the form of Boehringer Ingelheim, Canada-Korea, and RBC technology entrepreneurship and innovation awards.
Payam’s extracurricular efforts have also included significant mentorship and outreach related efforts. Along with Professor Eleanor Fish, Payam is the co-founder of Beyond Sciences Initiative: a trainee led non-profit organization whose efforts include improving the access to education and building sustainable research capacity in the developing world. Finally, Payam spent five years during his graduate degree working as an academic don, mentor and, later, instructor at Trinity College.
Payam will next move to Boston where he will commence his post-doctoral training under the guidance of Dr. Christophe Benoist and Dr. Diane Mathis at Harvard Medical School.