Ștefan Dascălu


Personal photo - Stefan Dascalu

Ștefan Dascălu

DPhil Candidate in Interdisciplinary Bioscience (Immunology)

Background

I completed my secondary school education in Romania, specialising in advanced mathematics and informatics. During this time, I participated in various national and international scientific contests and expositions which have allowed me to develop a passion for biology and science in general.

I continued my undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford and obtained a B.A. in Biological Sciences in 2018. The course has allowed me to gain a broad knowledge of biological concepts whilst also enabling me to specialise in infectious diseases and immunology. In the second year of my undergraduate studies I undertook a BBSRC summer research experience placement in Oxford, under the supervision of Prof. Sunetra Gupta and Dr. José Lourenço. The work involved mathematical modelling of multi-strain pathogens and running simulations of pathogen-host infection scenarios under various conditions. This placement had further sparked my interest in theoretical epidemiology and disease, leading me to do my Final Honour School dissertation on a similar topic. Cumulatively, both projects have provided me with a firm understanding of epidemiological concepts and a good command of programming languages (C++, R, UNIX/LINUX).

After my graduation, I did an internship at the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille Luminy (CIML) in France. There, under the supervision of Dr. Pierre Milpied, I devised and tested a new single-nucleus RNAseq protocol of archived frozen tissue samples using a murine model. As a result, I was able to expand my knowledge of immunology and learn valuable practical techniques such as flow cytometry.

Interests

My main research interests concern pathogen-host interactions, autoimmune diseases and the development of pathological processes in animals and humans. Importantly, my desire is to understand the adaptive immune response and the factors that shape its enormous diversity. During my doctoral studies, my aim is to combine both computational and laboratory-based methods in order to address these complex topics.

Aside from my academic interests, I am involved in several activities aimed at promoting science and scientific understanding back in Romania. I have also collaborated with Romanian NGOs that focus on decreasing the burden of infectious diseases through informing the public about vaccination and other prevention and control methods.

DTP rotations

I carried out my first rotational project at the Pirbright Institute, under the supervision of Prof. Munir Iqbal. My research involved generating and optimising a high-throughput flow cytometry staining protocol for the characterisation of chicken lymphocyte populations. Importantly, I used the method to assess changes in B and T cell subsets in the context of sterile immunity to influenza A.

For my second project, I analysed the effects of microbial colonisation on the adaptive immune repertoire of chickens. Under the supervision of Prof. Adrian Smith, I used a high-throughput sequencing (HTS) method to compare the T cell repertoire in birds that were either housed in germ-free conditions or colonised with a complex gut microbiota.

DPhil Research

The aim of my project is to apply high-throughput sequencing to study the impact of various drivers of the adaptive immune repertoire of avian hosts. Therefore, factors such as microbial colonisation, vaccination, and infectious challenge will be evaluated in terms of their effects on the T and B cell repertoire. The outcomes of my DPhil research project will provide important information about the avian immune system, while also having the potential to guide current and future practices in the poultry sector.

Publications

Dascalu S. The Successes and Failures of the Initial COVID-19 Pandemic Response in Romania. Front Public Heal (2020) 8:344. 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00344

Dascalu S. Measles Epidemics in Romania: Lessons for Public Health and Future Policy. Front Public Heal (2019) 7:98. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00098

Preprints

Ghafari M, Hejazi B, Karshenas A, Dascalu S, Ferretti L, Ledda A, Katzourakis A. Ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran: challenges and signs of concern. medRxiv 2020.04.18.20070904. doi:10.1101/2020.04.18.20070904