In profile: Dr Leticia Monin Aldama, Advanced Research Fellow

As part of our Staff Profile series, we spoke to Dr Leticia Monin Aldama who has recently joined the department. Here, she tells us more about her research background and interests.

Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?

I’m a new Advanced Research Fellow, and I’ve just started my research group in the Department of Immunology and Inflammation.

Tell us about your career so far – when did you join the college, and where were you working/studying before this?

I got my PhD in Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, where I studied the impact of common co-infections, including helminths, on immunity to tuberculosis. I then did a short postdoc researching novel regulators of proinflammatory mediators. In 2016, I moved to London, where I joined the laboratory of Professor Adrian Hayday as a postdoctoral fellow. There, I worked on the biology of gamma delta T cells, a type of white blood cell that is enriched in peripheral tissues and that plays key roles in the early protection of tissues to infection and tumoral transformation. In addition, when the likely impact of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear in early 2020, I pivoted my research towards understanding the immune mechanisms underlying severe disease in patients hospitalised with SARS-CoV-2, and vaccine responses in cancer patients. I joined Imperial College in July 2023 to start my own research group.

Can you explain a bit more about your research interests and what initially sparked your interest in your current field?

I am interested in how the immune system coordinates the defense of tissues against infection and tumorigenesis. My research focuses on a specific type of T cell, gamma delta T cells, which are enriched in barrier tissues. Because of their location at the body’s barriers and their responsiveness to tissue stress, they are some of the first immune cells to become engaged when the tissue is dysregulated. Therefore, if we understand the signals that lead to their activation, we may be able to harness them immunotherapeutically. My research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying gamma delta T cell development and their functions in the tissue.

What aspect of your role are you most excited about?

I am looking forward to tackling some long-standing questions in the gamma delta T cell field, including understanding how they communicate with other cells in the tissue, and identifying the molecules that their T cell receptor binds to. I also enjoy training and interacting with students, and I look forward to recruiting my first PhD student very soon.

When you are not working, what are your main passions and hobbies?

Outside of the lab, I enjoy yoga, hiking, playing the ukulele and trying out new recipes. I’m currently obsessed with Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Nopi- I’ve made quite a few of his recipes.

And finally – if you were stranded on a desert island but allowed one luxury item, what would it be?

Bug repellent and sunscreen.