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Behar Lab


Sam Behar, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

After graduating from UC Berkeley (Chemistry), I attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where I earned my M.D. and Ph.D. (Cell Biology). Afterwards, I came to Boston to pursue clinical training at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. There, I completed my Residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowship in Rheumatology and trained in cellular immunology in the lab of my mentor Michael Brenner. During the next years, I practiced Rheumatology and established my lab, which focused on immunity to tuberculosis. After 23 years, I joined the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where I am currently Professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems.

My lab has made important contributions to our understanding of immunity to tuberculosis, particularly in the context of how the immune response is coordinated and integrated in vivo.  Our interests span the early events following Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection of macrophages, to T cell priming, acquisition of effector function, and memory responses. Our ultimate goal is to determine the immunological basis for protective immunity so it can be leveraged in vaccine design and the development of novel vaccine strategies.

I am proud of the scientists in my lab, both the current team and past alumni. I am gratified by their commitment to the process of science and the projects we are engaged in. Many of them feel strongly about global health and health equity. I believe that serving as their mentor is among my most important responsibilities and it is a commitment that I embrace. My trainees have gone on to a variety of careers and several are faculty at major academic medical centers, have prominent positions in industry, and serve in the publishing industry.

Prof. Sam Behar Professor  Google Scholar    NCBI    

Lab Members

image7rf6.png Kelly joined the lab in March 2020.  She graduated from University of Massachusetts Lowell with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science in Biological Sciences. Kelly has experience managing mouse colonies and assisting on projects in Tuberculosis research.  The newest member to the Behar lab, she is excited to begin working with everyone.  Outside of the lab Kelly enjoys reading a good book and spending time with family
Kelly Cavallo

Research Technician  

Evelyn is a graduate student in the Behar Lab pursuing a PhD in biomedical sciences. Her current project involves using mouse models to study the CD4+ T-cell response during Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. More specifically, she’s interested in CD4+ T-cell exhaustion, and her project involves using flow cytometry and RNAseq to answer questions about the regulatory mechanisms mediating T-cell function (or dysfunction) during Tuberculosis, and how T-cell dysfunction may contribute to the development of disease.

Evelyn is originally from California, where she graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BS in Chemistry and Biochemistry. In her free time, she likes to read crime novels/psychological thrillers, practice yoga, cook, and bake, and she finds joy in experimenting with new recipes.


Graduate Student  
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Danny is a Ph.D student in Dr. Behar’s lab. His research mainly focuses on MHC class I antigen presentation during Mtb infection. We have found that CD8 T-cells inefficiently recognize Mtb – infected host cells, and Danny is working to understand the biology behind this phenomenon. He is currently investigating the role of different antigen presenting cell types, cell death, and antigen sources in CD8 T-cell control. Outside of the lab he is a big sci-fi nerd and cat dad. He enjoys to spend his downtime playing video games, watching TV, reading and spending time outdoors and camping.

Danny Mott

Graduate Student  


Dr. Rocky Lai obtained his Ph.D. from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada where he sought to identify the mechanism in delayed T cell priming following pulmonary Mtb infection. He is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Behar Lab, where he seeks to identify immune correlates of protection against Mtb following BCG vaccination using a genetically diverse mouse model known as the Collaborative Cross. He hopes to be able to use this information to identify viable vaccines that can contribute to the control of the global TB burden.
Rocky Lai, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow  

Swati is a postdoc in Behar lab, working on the role of TCRs in the progression of TB granulomas. She is interested in antigen presentation by CD4 and CD8 TCRs isolated from the progressive and restrictive TB granulomas. During her PhD from CSIR-CDRI, India she has explored the role of PtkA in Mtb and its effect on the host. She moved to USA in 2019 and joined Yale School of Medicine as a postdoc working on IBD and subsequently moved to UMass Chan to pursue her interest in TB research. Swati received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biotechnology from T.M. Bhagalpur University, India. She has a keen interest in teaching and been involved in teaching Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Microbiology for two years after her Postgraduation.

Apart from this she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and travelling.

Swati Jaiswal, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow  

Yu-Jung is a graduate student in the immunology and microbiology program in University of Massachusetts Medical school. In Behar lab, Yu-Jung is interested in understanding the role of CD8+ T cells in tuberculosis. Yu-Jung especially focuses on how CD4+ T cell, another subset of T cells, interacts with CD8+ T cell, and whether CD4 T cell provides help to improve the function of CD8 T cell.

Yu-Jung grew up in Taiwan. She got her bachelor’s degree from National Cheng Kung University and her master’s degree from National Taiwan University before she moving to the US and joining Behar lab. In National Taiwan University, Yu-Jung worked with Dr. Shi-Chuen Miaw, and studied post-translational modification in CD4+ T cell differentiation. This experience inspires her to learn more in the field of immunology. In her free time, Yu-Jung enjoys cooking and baking. 


Graduate Student  

Abiola Ogunsola, a native of Philadelphia, joined the Behar lab in September of 2020. She is a proud graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where she earned her BS in microbiology, with some sociology on the side. She has always been super interested in exploring host-pathogen interactions, and hopes to now embark on a journey delving deep into the world of immunology and gaining familiarity with the most recent bioinformatics tools. She is excited to have joined the group where she will work on a project focused on identifying genetic correlates of BCG-mediated protection of Tuberculosis infection. In her free time, Abiola enjoys baking, attending Zumba classes, and feeding blueberries to her beloved sun goddess (AKA bearded dragon), Dijon.

Abiola Ogunsola

Graduate Student  

Tasfia Rakib joined the Behar Lab in 2019. She got her Bachelor's degree in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, India, after which she came to the United States and got her Master's from University of Texas at Dallas and then worked for a few years as a research associate. While she was working in Dr. Akiko Iwasaki's lab at Yale University, one of her projects involving influenza infection piqued her interest in studying immunobiology of respiratory diseases caused by infectious agents which inspired her to pursue her PhD in the Behar Lab investigating the complexities of the host immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in causing TB disease pathogenesis. Tasfia's project involves studying the role of infected alveolar (and interstitial) macrophages in allowing the development of an intracellular niche for M. tuberculosis replication and investigating the potential role of efferocytosis (the engulfment of apoptotic cells by phagocytes) in regulation of its pathogenesis. She has also recently ventured in looking at the role of neutrophils in antigen presentation and their consequences in disease outcome. She says that the best part of her being in the Behar lab is "getting to do the research that I am truly interested in a lab with an incredibly amazing mentor and cheerful and supportive lab environment - it's the perfect balance of all three that makes it so fulfilling for me!".

Tasfia Rakib

Graduate Student  


Preeti did her M.Sc. in Biotechnology from Jiwaji University, Gwalior. Following her Master’s degree, she pursued PhD in Biotechnology from Vaccine and Infectious Disease Research Centre at Translational Health Science and Technology institute, Faridabad, India. During her graduate training, she utilized proteomic and biochemical approaches to study Sec-independent mechanism of protein translocation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Her current research interest is to deconvolute the molecular mechanism of inflammasome regulation pertaining to TB infection. Additionally, she focuses on mechanism of T cell immunity. In my free time, I love to spend time reading, sketching or ready to play outdoor games anytime!

Preeti Thakur, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow  

Travis Williams joined the lab in December 2019.  He is a graduate of Worcester State University where he earned bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and biotechnology. His work at the lab involves flow cytometry analysis of myeloid cells from the lungs of infected mice as part of the Collaborative Cross Project, as well as designing/optimizing antigen presentation assays for screening TCRs for cognate antigen as part of the ImpacTB contract.  Outside the lab, Travis runs an ultimate frisbee league, loves funk music and enjoys exploring nature with his partner and their two border Aussies.

Travis Williams

Research Technician  


Matt Booty, Ph.D. (former graduate student), Lead Scientist at Spring Discovery

Steve Carpenter, M.D., Ph.D. (former fellow), Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University

Pushpa Jayaraman, Ph.D. (former postdoc), Associate Director at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research

Alissa Rothchild, Ph.D. (former graduate student), Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Mazier Divangahi, Ph.D. (former postdoc), Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University

Claudio Nunes-Alves, Ph.D. (former graduate student), Senior Editor at Nature Microbiology

Joshua Woodworth, Ph.D. (former graduate student), Research Scientist at Statens Serum Institut