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Getting to Know Evanna Mills, PhD

Date Posted: Monday, April 03, 2023
By: David Guertin, PhD

On March April 20, MetNet will feature our next Fluxing Star talk. Evanna Mills is an Assistant Professor of Cancer Immunology and Virology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Immunology at Harvard Medical School. She received her Biochemistry with Immunology degree, with honors, at Trinity College in Dublin, where she stayed for her PhD training with Luke O'Neill.

She moved on for postdoctoral studies with Ed Chouchani at Dana Farber from 2017-22, after which she was recruited to the Cancer Immunology & Virology and the Immunology programs at DFCI and HMS, respectively. Evanna’s many honors include 2021 Outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow of the Year at HMS, an EMBO Long Term Fellowship Award, and a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award.

Her independent lab is exploring how metabolites act as signaling molecules to regulate macrophage function during homeostasis and in chronic pathologies such as metabolic disease, chronic inflammatory disease, and cancer.

We asked Evanna to answer the following random non-scientific questions:

What current book or TV shows you are into?

I have no shame admitting I love trash TV, mainly the British stuff more so than U.S. though. Love Island, Made in Chelsea, you name it… I've probably watched it. Anything reality really. Other than that, I love anything David Attenborough. We also recently finished season one of The White Lotus which was excellent. My all-time favorite shows are Band of Brothers and Normal People.

What is unique about the Mills lab environment?

We have a leprechaun on our door, really playing to the Irish stereotype. We also all have a list of goals we try to achieve each year.

What keeps you busy outside of lab?

Currently house hunting, which is a horrible activity. Besides that, I love being outdoors. I play field hockey and love nature and go for a lot of walks. I also love yoga and the gym but balance that with going to fancy cocktail bars and restaurants.

Do you have a hidden talent that most people don’t know about?

I can hold a plank for over two minutes, but I don't think that's very impressive. People always underestimate my strength though! I can also make a mean vegan whiskey sour.

What one piece of advice would you offer to trainees (grad students/postdocs)?

Don't be afraid to fail but fail fast. And get good at multi-tasking!

What profession would you be in if not a scientist?

Animal activist.

What memorable and funny happened to you in the lab during trainee or as a PI?

I submitted one of our Nature papers with the entirely wrong title. I accidentally copied and pasted the last reference of our paper somehow. I was analyzing mass spec data at the same time as submitted the paper. I’d say that is not a good time to multi-task! Thankfully it was still accepted, and my incredibly lovely boss laughed as opposed to killing me!

What do you wish you could do if you had more free time?

Be in nature and travel (to nature).