Jordi Lanis (right) and Inge Wefes, associate dean of the Graduate School.
Jordi Lanis, right, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, explains her team’s research project on intestinal inflammation to Inge Wefes, associate dean of the Graduate School.

Postdoctoral fellows are investigators who perform basic science research that finds its way into applications that help humankind in myriad ways — from civil engineering to environmental science to disease therapies.

There are almost 300 postdocs at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, and much of their research focuses on the intricacies of what causes disease as well as the biologic pathways to treatments.

Jordi Lanis has her doctorate in microbiology and has been a postdoctoral fellow at CU Anschutz for just over a year. She is passionate about her research, which focuses on understanding intestinal inflammation, but she also enjoys highlighting the important work of her postdoc peers.

Lanis served on the committee for this year’s Postdoctoral Research Day, which took place Thursday in Research 2 and the Krugman Conference Hall. About 80 postdoctoral fellows from CU Anschutz and CU Denver presented their work, both through oral presentations and poster sessions, during the event which collectively serves as a showcase for the breadth of our university’s research.

“We tend to stay holed up in our departments, so it’s nice to meet with people in different departments and different labs, start collaborations and hear advice on our research,” she said.

The founders of the event, now in its sixth year, recognized how postdocs work in a “transitional period,” where they operate in a semi-independent manner, according to Lanis. They tend to lose some of the structure—social functions, regular meetings with professors, ample opportunities to present research data—that is afforded students in graduate school.

“So this event was created so we could get our research out there as well as have an opportunity to bring in great scientists and outside speakers,” Lanis said. “We also use it as a career-building tool. We have career roundtables to network, which is definitely important.”

Many postdocs are headed toward a career as a tenured faculty member who will lead their own labs, but others go into health care delivery, industry based research, science administration and policy making positions.

Lanis plans to stay in academic research. The intestinal inflammation research conducted by her team, led by Sean Colgan, PhD, director of the Mucosal Inflammation Program in the CU School of Medicine, could end up helping the millions of people who suffer from Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.

“We do a lot on the basic science side, but we try to break apart these pathways of the immune system to understand how inflammation is controlled,” Lanis said. ” … Possibly through knowing how these genes turn on we can give some sort of therapeutic to induce that (signal) to basically calm the inflammation.”

The career roundtables gave the doctoral fellows a chance to talk to professionals in fields such as medical writing, tech transfer, government affairs and private industry. Following on the theme of career development, the keynote address was delivered by Mary Mitchell, of the Mitchell Organization, who spoke about “Social Savvy for Scientists.”

The event also featured a talk by this year’s Postdoctoral Mentor Award recipient, Diego Restrepo, PhD, in Cell and Developmental Biology, entitled “Catalyzing Transition to Become an Independent Investigator.”

Five awards were given to top poster and oral presenters. The winners were:

— Abimbola Onasoga, Hematology, SOM — Marilyn Manco-Johnson mentor

— Shanshan Pei, Hematology, SOM — Craig Jordan mentor

— Swati Jain, Renal Diseases, SOM — Alkesh Jani mentor

— Priyadarshini Pantham, Neonatology, SOM — Theresa Powell mentor

— Daniel Eiler, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, SOM — Jeffrey Keift mentor

Published: March 12, 2015