Sofie Singbrant-Soderberg is currently a principal investigator with the department of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy at the Lund Stem Cell Center, Lund University, Sweden working with Hematopoietic stem cell biology, erythropoiesis and TGF-beta signaling. She has been a valued member of The New Investigator’s Committee since 2012. Her education and credentials include receiving MSc in Chemistry (Biomedical Chemistry Master Program) University of Kalmar, Sweden (2002), PhD in Molecular Medicine, Lund University, Sweden (2009) with Dr. Stefan Karlsson, Postdoc at St. Vincent’s Institute for Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia with Dr. Carl Walkley.
How did you find your way to the hematology and stem cells scientific field?
As part of my MSc I performed a master project at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia. When returning to Sweden I knew that I wanted to continue in science, but not necessarily in what field. Also, I didn’t have a lot of contacts at any of the bigger universities in Sweden. So, to increasing my chances of finding a good lab for my PhD I decided to get more lab experience in a variety of areas and to expand my scientific network. I was admitted to the Biomedical Research School at Lund University where did lab-rotations, which really helped me realize what I was interested in, and very importantly, what kind of lab I wanted to work in. After having tried several different labs and projects I found the glass shoe that fitted and ended up doing my PhD with Dr. Stefan Karlsson on the role of TGF-beta superfamily signaling in hematopoietic stem cell regulation. And 12 years later I still find hematology and stem cell regulation very interesting.
And then how were you introduced to ISEH?
My PhD supervisor - Dr. Stefan Karlsson - was involved in ISEH and encouraged us from very early on to submit abstracts and apply for traveling grants to attend scientific meetings, particularly the ISEH meetings. My first ISEH meeting was in Glasgow 2005, and I’ve continued going almost every year ever since.
How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?
I aim to mentor new investigators, both in my own group and at our department, by being available, supportive but critical, and by asking questions rather than to provide solutions. Through my role as vice chair for Future Faculty at Lund University and being on the ISEH New Investigator Committee I also get to influence career sessions, workshops and “meet the expert”-opportunities promoting development of new investigators both locally and internationally.
What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?
Starting up my own independent line of research is of course very exciting, and one interesting study we are focusing on is the role of mitochondrial function in red blood cell formation and anemia, which we believe is particularly important in the refractory anemia associated with Myelodysplastic syndrome. Another exciting finding that I’ve made together with Dr. Johan Flygare is that we have identified surface markers that provide high purity fractionation and definition of a hierarchy of stress-progenitors mediating irradiation-induced stress recovery, including the earliest erythroid progenitors responsible for producing large numbers of red blood cells. This provides a great tool for our further characterization and functional studies of the mechanisms regulating erythropoiesis during anemia.
Given your experience in the field, how have you seen the field change in the last five years?
Several techniques that we use now are much more sophisticated, allowing us to investigate biological processes at a single cell resolution. This has really re-drawn the hematopoietic tree, and changed the way we interpret output potential of individual cells. Also, imaging techniques have evolved, allowing us to view hematopoietic cells in their microenvironment both at a greater resolution and in real time. Furthermore, the CRISPR/CAS9 system of gene disruption has made a big difference when studying biological functions of various genes in health and disease.
What do you find most valuable about ISEH?
First of all, the annual meetings, but also the high-quality webinars that are free to ISEH members and our journal Experimental Hematology.
Why do you attend the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting?
Apart from the great science presented, I particularly like the ISEH meetings for two reasons. Firstly, it is small enough to interact with everyone from PhD students to senior professors, and secondly there is a great focus on new investigators with educating career sessions and “meet the expert” opportunities. And as a member of the New Investigator Committee we are constantly working on making the annual meetings even more attractive for young investigators to attend.
What is your favorite ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting memory?
I have so many great memories from ISEH meetings, I’m not sure I can choose just one. But they all have in common that they include interacting with the people going to the meetings, and range from getting valuable feedback from top scientists in our field to dancing until 3 am at the social events. A great mix of science and networking!
Hobbies: To travel, spend time with my family, and eat and dance with friends.
Favorite book: A man called Ove, by the Swedish author Fredrik Backman
Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption
If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why? I would love to have dinner with Ellen DeGeneres. I think humor is a very important ingredient to keep sane no matter what you do or experience in life.