International Buzz

Science Teacher Christopher Chuckran’s PhD research is getting global attention.


Everyone has been affected by cancer in some way. And while each person’s cancer treatment journey is different, they all rely on cancer research. Recently, the cancer research of a Pomfret faculty member and his team was published in Science Translational Medicine and will hopefully have a positive impact on identifying the right form of treatment for many individuals.

Science Teacher Christopher Chuckran recently completed his PhD dissertation research in microbiology and immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. His research focused on understanding how regulatory T cells impede protective immunity in cancer patients. “Our study shows that some patients have a big hurdle to overcome in terms of the suppression that regulatory T cells exert on the immune response in tumors. Patients experiencing this response might benefit from a different form of treatment that would target this pathway,” said Chuckran. “It's a step in the right direction — everything in science is incremental. Maybe a new therapy comes out of this research, but even just knowing which therapy a patient should receive is important.”

His research is now available for others to utilize. The report is getting some buzz in scientific communities around the world. Chuckran has received emails from physician-scientists from as far as Australia asking clinical questions and commending him for the study. The paper has been viewed by thousands of scientists and has already received an attention score in the top ten percent of research publications of all time. “I didn't anticipate this type of response,” said Chuckran. “Going into grad school I never expected to be published in such an esteemed journal. It is kind of mind-blowing!” 

This is not the first time Chuckran’s research has been popular — work he published earlier in his graduate studies on the neuropilin-1 molecule has frequently been referenced in recent Covid studies. “Neuropilin, the molecule we study in cancer immunology, is a protein thought to bind with Covid — SARS-CoV-2 — when entering the nervous system thereby contributing to some of the hallmarks of Covid-19 infections like anosmia [the loss of the sense of smell],” shared Chuckran. “It's been interesting to see papers that I've written referenced in Covid studies and the cross-relevance.”

While completing his dissertation, Chuckran had a difficult decision to make. Should he explore work in the pharmaceutical industry or follow his desire to teach? Having attended boarding school himself, he always wanted to go into teaching but wasn’t sure when he would start. “Through a variety of conversations, it became clear that I wanted to go into teaching from the outset,” said Chuckran. “Getting the opportunity to coach, advise, and wear all of the different hats one wears at a boarding school is something that I've been excited about. Sharing something that you love — and maybe even inspiring young people to go down a similar path — has already been a lot of fun in the first few months that I have been here at Pomfret.” 

Chuckran arrived on the Hilltop this past fall and teaches chemistry classes and an independent study in biochemistry. He was the assistant boys cross country coach and in the spring will serve as the assistant coach for boys track and field. 

“We are thrilled that Dr. Chuckran’s paper has been published and that his hard work and research is being recognized and celebrated,” said Dean of Faculty Martha Horst. “Pomfret is lucky to have him and so many other esteemed individuals on our faculty.” 

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International Buzz

Science Teacher Christopher Chuckran’s PhD research is getting global attention.

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