Two faculty members from the University of Minnesota Medical School received the 2019 Distinguished Lectureship Award on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Dean’s Distinguished Research Lectureship (DDRL). David Masopust, PhD, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and in the Center for Immunology, and Melissa Geller, MD, MS, associate professor and division director for the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health, were the two awardees recognized for their outstanding research.

This award is celebrated each year for Medical School faculty, who each deliver a presentation detailing their research upon receiving the award at DDRL. Dr. Geller was recognized for her research that is focused on finding ways to tune-up the natural killer cell so they can fight against ovarian cancer and further improve prognosis when patients are diagnosed. Dr. Geller takes care of patients all the way from surgery to chemotherapy and uses the lab to improve care for cancer patients. She has been working to improve immunotherapy, specifically with ovarian cancer, and has always brought the clinical problems to the lab.

“As a surgeon scientist, team science is critical in moving novel therapeutics from the bench to the bedside. I have been so fortunate to have the mentoring and support of brilliant scientists and clinicians at the University of Minnesota to help bring immune based therapies to women with ovarian cancer. I was incredibly honored and humbled by the invitation to give this lecture,” Dr. Geller says.

The DDRL Awards on a table.

Dr. Masopust was recognized for creating a paradigm shift in the understanding of immunological research and the potential impact this can have on cancer immunotherapy, specifically with brain and ovarian cancer. His research focuses on immune-surveillance by T cells. He and his team of investigators found that T cells exist in two different classes, and the majority of immune surveillance in the body is accomplished by resident memory T cells. Resident memory T cells live in all organs of the body and remain poised to rapidly respond to pathogens and contain infection spread. 

“It was both humbling and an honor to present my laboratory’s work at this year’s Dean’s Distinguished Research Lectureship. This forum highlights a small fraction of the exceptional basic and clinical research happening at the Medical School,” Dr. Masopust says. “This event further celebrates that we have a culture that fosters the translation of great ideas from the lab bench to the treatment of patients. My lab members and I are proud to contribute to this mission.”

Also at DDRL, four faculty members were added to the Wall of Scholarship, who have first or last author credits on a publication that has been cited at least 1,000 times. This year’s honorees are Robert Foley, MD, Department of Medicine; Do-Hyung Kim, PhD, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics; Kelvin Lim, MD, Department of Psychiatry; and Charles Ryan, MD, Department of Medicine.

To watch the event and remarks from honorees, visit the Medical School’s YouTube channel