Van Es 187G
701 231 7841
I am an immunologist, and I believe that understanding the host’s response to a pathogen is a hugely important aspect of microbiology. I teach an advanced immunology class (MICR 770) that deals with the “big three” infectious disease killers in the world today—TB, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. I also help with graduate classes on the responsible conduct of research and professional development. I love teaching about immunology. From the things that our immune system does every day that prevent infection to eliminating pathogens that hide inside the very cells that are supposed to kill them...our immune system is fascinating. It’s helping (and sometimes hurting) us every day. I got a firsthand look at transplant immunology a couple of years ago when I donated part of my liver to an unrelated recipient. As an immunologist, I think that is totally cool!! (The drug reaction that I had to the pain medication was not so cool, but still fascinating.)
Our lab researches the interaction between the inflammatory cells and the resident cells and architecture of the allergic lung when a person is repeatedly exposed to mold spores. We have developed an animal model that closely mimics the human disease using the inhalation of Aspergillus fumigatus spores. A. fumigatus is found nearly everywhere and is responsible for a huge number of the mold-induced diseases of humans. The severity of these diseases can range from respiratory allergies to deadly invasive disease. The tiny, dark green spores are made by the billions, are very resistant to drying, and can stay airborne for long periods of time. When a person with a normal immune system inhales Aspergillus spores (s)he clears them very quickly. However, regular exposures or high-dose exposures can provoke allergies, and inhalation of the fungus can be life-threatening in people with an impaired immune system. Recently, we have built a collaboration with researchers at the University of Utah and ARUP National Reference Laboratory to develop an ultra-sensitive diagnostic test for Invasive Aspergillosis.
The Immunology Laboratory is part of the Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences, which is housed in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources. While this may not seem to be a logical progression to some, it has been a tremendous opportunity to use our expertise for outreach and research to impact the state in a meaningful way. I employ a number of talented undergraduate and graduate students in my research program. Not only do these students work at the lab bench to ask (and answer) the questions about how microorganisms impact our health, they are also volunteers who do outreach and training programs with local grade schools and high schools. We all have the very good fortune of working with Mr. Scott Hoselton who is the Research Specialist in the lab. His background and dedication is invaluable to our progress in understanding fungal respiratory disease.
I also fill a part-time position working with academic programs in the College. It is humbling to see the universal dedication that the faculty across the college have for student success.
I was born into a family of 12 and grew up on a farm outside of Sheldon, North Dakota. My dad was a farmer and a teacher, and education was always a very important part of my life. I am an alum of NDSU (Go, Bison!) where I studied zoology as an undergraduate and earned my Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology with an emphasis in immunology. I spent 4 years at the University of Michigan Medical School for postdoctoral training in lung pathology. At Michigan, I studied in the lab of another NDSU alum, Steven Kunkel, who has been both a mentor and an inspiration.
I love to cook...and eat. My husband and I enjoy entertaining, especially in the summer when the patio is an option and the grill is sizzling. I have two great kids that I am ridiculously proud of. I sing...mostly in the car or shower, but occasionally with my church’s funeral choir...I’m best in a group. I have recently rediscovered oil painting...more for therapy than for art. I have always loved reading, particularly fiction, which was the best gift my dad ever gave me.