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Ricardo Fernandes

Ricardo Fernandes

A bit about yourself

I grew up in Porto, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. While an undergrad I took advantage of the ERASMUS program to work in Prof. Suresh Rattan Lab, Arhus University, Denmark. Back in Porto I met with Prof. Alexandre Carmo for a summer job position interview in his lab, but instead ended up being introduced to Prof Simon J. Davis at Oxford who later became my DPhil supervisor.

Summarise the research in your DPhil/PhD

At the T-cell biology group I worked on multiple projects aiming to understand the molecular basis of T cell receptor (TCR) triggering. The TCR is the hallmark receptor of T cells and plays a key role in driving the adaptive immune response. The triggering mechanism of the TCR is still unknown and under guidance of Prof Simon Davis I had a chance to study the early events that occur during TCR triggering.

About your current job, and what helped you/how you decided to get into this area

In 2015 I started a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship, at Stanford University, under mentorship of Prof. K. C. Garcia. The immune system relies on signals transmitted by surface receptors present on cells. These signals can be transmitted by soluble or transmembrane proteins. The ability to modulate the response of a particular receptor or even of a particular group of cells opens the possibility to define the course of any given immune response, from pathogens to cancer cells. At Prof. K. C. Garcia, we use protein evolution to discover new protein-protein interactions and potentiate or dampen specific immune responses. After my DPhil work at Oxford, aimed at understanding key steps in the triggering mechanism of the TCR, the ability to modulate the activity of the TCR and of other immune receptors seemed a challenging but potentially very rewarding area to initiate my postdoctoral studies. 

Anything extra you found you needed to know, learn along the way or wish you had done differently

A career in Science poses multiple challenges and at times difficult compromises must be made. Leave every option open and take every opportunity to explore and to meet new people. Countless times the best ideas, support and advice appeared from random encounters and the seemingly unrelated conversations that followed.  Serendipity is a key player in Science and we should leave enough space for it.