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Date published: May 17, 2023

May Postdoctoral Spotlight: Liraz Shmuel-Galia, PhD

Liraz Shmuel-Galia, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at UMass Chan Medical School and a member of the Fitzgerald Lab, who is originally from Beer Yaacov, a small town in Israel. This summer, Dr. Galia will complete her postdoctoral work at UMass Chan and start her own lab at UT Southwestern. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors!  

What is your research focus?

My research is focused on exploring novel regulatory mechanisms that control innate immune responses in the intestinal tract. While working in Dr. Fitzgerald’s lab, I began studying long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) and their role in the regulation of innate immunity. With a strong background in mucosal immunology, my goal was to address the lack of understanding about lncRNAs in intestinal inflammation. I identified a highly conserved lncRNA, HOXA11os, as a key regulator of intestinal homeostasis and found a previously unreported transcript of HOXA11os that is transcribed in the nucleus and translocated to the mitochondria in cells of the distal colon (Shmuel-Galia et al., submitted). This study uncovered a new metabolic signaling pathway that bridges mitochondrial metabolism and the onset of colitis through expression of the lncRNA, HOXA11os, and provides the first characterization of how a lncRNA regulates mitochondrial metabolic function at a tissue level and how its dysregulation can impact disease outcome. 

In my independent lab at UT Southwestern, I will investigate how innate immune signaling regulates intestinal inflammation and homeostasis. I envision developing a research program that utilizes novel approaches to study the precise molecular and cellular mechanisms by which proteins, as well as lncRNAs, regulate immune responses in the gut.  

Why did you choose UMass for your postdoctoral studies?
I chose UMass for my postdoc because of its reputation for conducting high-quality research in my field of interest. I was drawn to the collaborative and supportive environment that fosters scientific innovation. Furthermore, as someone from Israel, I was excited at the prospect of experiencing a new environment and climate, particularly the opportunity to explore snow and the beautiful New England scenery. Finally, I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with my PI, Dr. Fitzgerald, whose work I have long admired. 

Where is your favorite place to travel for vacation and why?
I enjoy going to tropical destinations, where I can experience the warm weather and partake in activities such as diving. I find it fascinating to explore new cultures and traditions, which is always an exciting aspect of my travels.  

What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?
I enjoy playing Newcomb ball with my friends, it’s a fun way to stay active and socialized. Recently, my young son started playing soccer and I have grown to love both watching and playing the game with him.