Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

- Determining the lifespan of allergy-causing IgE plasma cells
- How the immune system creates and avoids harmful antibody responses
- Improving the effectiveness of vaccines
- Programming stochastic cytokine expression in T cells.
- Understanding B cell fate trajectories in the earliest stage of activation

20102024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Biography

Dr Robinson leads the IgE and Plasma Cell Development research group in the Immunology & Pathology Department at Monash. The Robinson group's primary focus is to understand IgE-producing plasma cell longevity, their sites of formation and turnover kinetics in allergic immune responses. The Robinson research group also studies disease-preventing plasma cells, aiming to determine ways to improve antibody responses with common vaccine approaches in mammals. He is currently recruiting Doctoral and Honours students. Interested students can contact Dr Robinson by e-mail.

Between 2013 - 2016, Dr Robinson was a Post-doctoral Research Scholar at the UCSF where his research examined regulation of IgE B cell responses.

Dr Robinson has reviewed grants for NHMRC and the Swiss National Science Foundation, as well as several Journal reviews.

Research interests

Dr Robinson is motivated to understand the mechanisms regulating B cell differentiation, and the roles of antibodies, B cells and T cells in immune responses generally. These motivations arise from his current and past research positions, all of which have focused on adaptive immune response regulation. Dr Robinson's specific interest in B cells and antibodies developed from an initial fascination with IgE, as few of the conventional notions about the regulation of antibody production seem to apply for the IgE isotype. Recently, he has begun to reappraise what it means to be a ‘memory’ immune cell, how immune memory is maintained, and exactly what a beneficial outcome of infection or vaccination looks like for an individual and a community of individuals. Going forward, Dr Robinson intends to clarify both shared and isotype-restricted regulatory mechanisms of B cell differentiation and function, especially at the earliest and latest time points after immune response initiation.

Supervision interests

Determining the lifespan of allergy-causing IgE plasma cells
IgE antibodies are a major cause of allergy and asthma, as well as a major encumbrance to vaccine development as they cause vaccine-driven anaphylaxis. We are interested in understanding how long the cells that produce the IgE—IgE plasma cells (PC)— can survive and how they are made. In this project, novel timestamping PC reporter and unique IgE reporter mice, combined with RNAseq, scRNAseq and ATACseq approaches will be used to characterise the lifespan potential of IgE PC.

How the immune system creates and avoids harmful antibody responses
B cells are activated by infectious pathogens and allergens to become antibody-secreting plasma cells that target the insulting pathogen or allergen. The function of the antibody is dependent on the isotype of the antibody, with IgG antibodies helping clear infections, while IgE antibodies react to allergens to cause allergies and anaphylaxis.

Improving the effectiveness of vaccines
Vaccines protect us by generating pathogen-specific antibodies. Antibodies are produced by antibody-secreting cells (ASC). Interestingly, some vaccines generate ASC that last a lifetime, whereas others generate ASC that die in a few months. What underlies this dramatic difference in lifespan potential is likely programmed into the cell during formation.

Programming stochastic cytokine expression in T cells.
Activated T cells express cytokines with a determined probability. Whether one or two alleles of a cytokine gene are expressed is a function of signal strength and an accessibility imprint shaped by former stimulations. Our modelling and experimental data indicate that for the Il4 gene, stimulation results in ‘bursts’ of IL-4 production for short periods of time, which has implications for how recipient cells interpret and respond to packets of IL-4 signal. In this honours project, we want to determine if the mode of regulation is conserved for other cytokines.

Understanding B cell fate trajectories in the earliest stage of activation
B cells are the quintessential regulator of immunity. Upon activation, B cells divide and then differentiate into antibody-producing cells, which produce antibodies to protect from infections, but also cause allergies. Whether the antibodies are protective or harmful depends on the isotype of the antibody, with IgG antibodies mostly being helpful, while IgE antibodies tend to be harmful. We are interested in understanding the first 'decisions' B cells make regarding whether to become an IgG- or IgE-producing cell. For several reasons, we think that IgG and IgE B cell genesis rates might differ for B cell populations expressing high and low amounts of the molecule IL-4Ra.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Immunology, PhD, Victoria University of Wellington

… → 2013

Research area keywords

  • B cells
  • IgE
  • Plasma cells
  • Antibody
  • Immunology

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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